CORAL SPRINGS — Regardless of how things work out this afternoon when the Florida Panthers play host to the Bruins in Game 4, the series will return to Boston later this week.
That means today’s game is not an elimination game.
For the Panthers, it does feel like a must-win game, however.
Although coach Paul Maurice jokingly (we think) referred to pundits who predicted a Boston series sweep, he knows his team cannot afford to go down 3-1 in this series with it headed back to Boston on Wednesday night.
Florida played about 1 1/4 good periods in Friday night’s 4-2 loss to the Bruins to go down 2-1 in the best-of-7 series.
The Panthers will have to be much better in all phases of their game — from the forecheck to their special teams to protecting whichever goalie starts — if they hope to even this thing up.
“We’ll show up scratching and clawing,” Maurice said, “and give them everything we’ve got. … This feels like the last three months coming off a loss. You grind video, you pump some tires, you get some rest and you come back at it. I don’t think it is an advantage, but it is not new ground for us. We seem to be at our best when your stomach is off a little bit coming to the game because you need it, you need to win.’’
The Panthers came out of the gate and played a solid game on Friday, finding themselves down 1-0 on a 50-foot snapshot from Taylor Hall that beat Alex Lyon 2:26 in.
Florida did not play very well in the second period as it was outshot 12-4 and struggled to get into the Boston zone and set up for any shot of consequence.
The Panthers did not do much until the Bruins took a 4-0 lead in the third, either.
“We have to be comfortable playing in that one-goal game,” Sam Bennett said Saturday afternoon. “We had a good first but got away from our game in trying to do too much in the second. We have to keep it simple, get back to basics. We are a physical, forechecking team and this is a tight series. There are not of chances either way. We have to be comfortable in these tight games.”
In a 6-3 win on Wednesday night in Boston, the Panthers hit everything that moved, forcing 15 turnovers as they controlled the pace and flow of the game.
The Bruins’ goals in the game when it was still close was a Brad Marchand shorthanded chance off a turnover deep in the zone and a shot deflected off the calf of Tyler Bertuzzi.
On Friday, it was Boston which controlled everything as Florida was credited with 14 turnovers. Felt like a lot more.
“I think we need a little more intensity and a little more desperation,” Anthony Duclair said. “We got away from our game a little bit and get back to the way we played in Game 2 in Boston. If we play that way, a five-person unit … we’ll be alright.”
Added Ryan Lomberg: “They have won a ton of games this year, but we know how important this next one is. They’re a good team. Credit to them, they played well. But we’re looking forward to this next one. They played hard and played a good game. We know what we’re going up against. They’ll make their plays. But last night is behind us.”
Maurice stuck to his promise in the final week of the regular season of not giving away who would start in net for the Panthers moving forward.
“We’re selling tickets right now so I can’t tell you,” Maurice said.
It certainly sounds like Lyon will get his fourth start in this series and 12th consecutive start since taking over for an ill Sergei Bobrovsky on March 29 in Toronto.
Maurice pulled Lyon after David Pastrnak walked in and made it 3-0 midway through the third, but reiterated Saturday that was more just to help Bobrovsky get some rust off after not seeing a minute of game action in almost a month.
Lyon ended up stopped 23 of 26 shots faced in Game 3; Bobrovsky stopped 8 of 9.
“I think I have been pretty clear in how I have thought Alex has played in this series,’’ Maurice said. “The idea has been Sergei is always there and is available. At that point in the game, it was a great opportunity to get Sergei back in and would not change the outcome of the game. He felt good. He is a veteran guy and needed to get back in there.
“I think we’re in a good position to play one of them. My goal is play only one of them tomorrow.”
— Maurice was liberal in changing up his lines again in Game 4 as the most interesting move was putting Anton Lundell up with Sasha Barkov.
It does not sound like those changes will stick, either.
“We will use 12 of them in some fashion,” Maurice said. “There is a game played every night and there adjustments every night where you assess your players and the matchup. But that doesn’t necessarily relate to where you want your starting point to be. I liked the first period and the line structure that we had. I would more likely go back to that.
“The line changes I made early in Game 2 I liked and I stayed with it. In these playoff series, you cannot wait until the next game to make a change. If you don’t like what you are seeing, you have to react pretty quickly.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 4 (Boston Leads Series 2-1)
- When: Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, TNT
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Regular Season Series (Tied 2-2): @Boston 5, Florida 3 (Oct. 17); @Florida 5, Boston 2 (Nov. 23); @Boston 7, Florida 3 (Dec. 19); @Florida 4, Boston 3 OT (Jan. 28)
- Last Season: Boston won 2-1
- All-time Regular Season Series: Boston leads 60-38-6, 6 ties
- Playoff History (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 4-1, 1996 (first round)
- First Round Schedule — Game 1: @Boston 3, Florida 1; Game 2: Florida 6, @Boston 3; Game 3: Boston 4, @Florida 2; Game 4: at Florida, Sunday, 3:30 (BSF, TNT); Game 5: at Boston, Wednesday, 7 (BSF, ESPN); Game 6*: at Florida, Friday, April 28; Game 7*: at Boston, Sunday, April 30. (*) — If Necessary.