SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers were 20 minutes away from forcing a winner-take-all Game 7 against the Bruins.
Boston was not going down without a fight.
The Bruins scored twice within the opening four minutes of the third to take their first lead against the Panthers since the fourth game of this series.
Florida did not go quietly, either.
This was what was once called an ‘Instant Classic.’
The Panthers ended up getting the go-ahead goal from Eetu Luostarinen with 5:38 remaining as they forced a Game 7 in Boston on Sunday with a 7-5 win at FLA Live Arena.
The series, one in which the Panthers trailed 3-1, is now tied at 3 games each.
Boston, the NHL’s best regular-season team ever, has now dropped the past two games.
Florida and Boston went back-and-forth in the third period with the Bruins taking the lead twice only to see the Panthers come back and tie the score fairly quickly.
Boston took a 4-3 lead at 3:53 of the third only to have Zac Dalpe tie it at 7:21.
The Bruins got a Jake DeBrusk shorthanded goal at 10:22 only to see Matthew Tkachuk get his second of the night 27 seconds later.
As exciting as the action was, the Panthers cannot be happy with the way their special teams played on Friday night — much less this entire series.
Boston scored on three of its first four power play chances and then got DeBrusk’s goal midway through the third.
Aside from special teams, the Panthers controlled 5-on-5 play for much of the night but could not stay out of the box — and could not stop the likes of David Pastrnak and Tyler Bertuzzi.
The Panthers, actually, got two power play goals. It certainly did not feel like it.
Florida’s first goal came on Brandon Montour’s 4-on-3 shot at 2:01 of the opening period. As would be the case all night, Boston tied it at 1 on Bertuzzi’s first of two power play goals.
The Panthers took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission on Tkachuk’s goal at 13:52 of the period with Sasha Barkov making it 3-2 going into the third as he scored his first of the series on a nice play in front of the net.
Boston looked to take control of the game throughout the third period — but the Panthers kept coming back.
Regardless, third-period goals from Dalpe, Tkachuk, Luostarinen and Sam Reinhart helped the Panthers move on.
GOALS OF THE GAME
- Panthers 1, Bruins 0 (2:01, 1st): Brandon Montour now has the most goals by a defenseman in Florida postseason history with three in 22 games. The three have all come this series. Nice shot from Montour on a 4-on-3 power play.
- Bruins 1, Panthers 1 (6:09, 1st): The Bruins’ power play machine got rolling early as Tyler Bertuzzi takes a pass from Brad Marchand, shoots at Sergei Bobrovsky then cleans up his own loose puck.
- Panthers 2, Bruins 1 (13:52, 1st): Nick Cousins gets loose on a 2-on-1 following a turnover from Connor Clifton with his shot ricocheting off Linus Ullmark and right to Matthew Tkachuk. Tka-Ching.
- Bruins 2, Panthers 2 (5:42, 2nd): David Pastrnak scores an absolute filthy goal as Boston starts 2-for-2 on the power play. Pasrnak’s between-the-legs backhanded goal from Marchand seriously should be outlawed.
- Panthers 3, Bruins 2 (9:22, 2nd): Sasha Barkov gets his first goal of the season as he and Anthony Duclair played a little touch-and-go. Duclair pulls Ullmark out of the net then sends a cross-ice pass to Barkov — who had to pull the puck in after it went off Dmitry Orlov — and shovels it through with the back of his blade. Nice play all around.
- Bruins 3, Panthers 3 (1:33, 3rd): Bertuzzi gets another one as the Panthers turn over the puck and he fires one through to tie the score again.
- Bruins 4, Panthers 3 (3:53, 3rd): After a questionable tripping call on Montour, the Bruins get another power play — and score again. This time Pastrnak is left alone on the left side of the net and does not miss.
- Panthers 4, Bruins 4 (7:21, 3rd): Eetu Luostarinen chases down a puck along the backwall and feeds Zac Dalpe in the slot. The captain of the Charlotte Checkers did not miss.
- Bruins 5, Panthers 4 (10:22, 3rd): Jake DeBrusk charges in and gets a feed from Pavel Zacha and beats Bobrovsky for the shorthanded goal.
- Panthers 5, Bruins 5 (10:49, 3rd): Tkachuk gets his second of the night as he bangs home a rebound off a shot from Anton Lundell.
- Panthers 6, Bruins 5 (14:22, 3rd): Luostarinen gets loose off a turnover and blasts one past Ullmark.
- Panthers 7, Bruins 5 (19:32, 3rd): Sam Reinhart banked in a full-ice empty net goal to wrap things up for the Panthers.
GR’S 3 STARS OF THE GAME
1. Matthew Tkachuk, Florida
2. Eetu Luostarinen, Florida
3. David Pastrnak, Boston
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 7 (Series Tied 3-3)
- When: Sunday, TBA
- Where: Boston Garden
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, TNT or TBS
- 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: Boston 6, @Florida 2; Game 5: Florida 4, @Boston 3 (OT); Game 6: @Florida, Friday; Game 7: at Boston, Sunday TBA (BSF, TNT/TBS).