The Florida Panthers had a golden opportunity to gain some much-needed momentum in their first-round series with the Boston Bruins.
And they blew it.
Bruins captain and two-way aficionado Patrice Bergeron was ruled out after becoming one of many players in Boston’s locker room to pick up a stomach bug.
Even with the Presidents’ Trophy winners slowed down, the Panthers could not capitalize.
They fell 3-1 due to a combination of self-inflicted mistakes and a lack of quality chances.
Florida found itself in a hole right away after taking two penalties early on.
Aaron Ekblad got called for tripping after taking David Pastrnak down on a quick 1-on-1 rush in front of Florida’s net.
Upon replay, it looked like Ekblad drove him to the ice with his body, but the Panthers went to the penalty kill 1:54 into the first period.
They killed that one off.
The problems started when Givani Smith took an interference penalty away from the play a minute after the penalty kill was over.
Boston’s power play moved the puck well and caught Marc Staal out of position — which caused him to drive Alex Lyon to the ice and give David Pastrnak a wide open shot. 1-0.
Florida controlled play for a while after that — the 15-8 shot clock after the first period tells that story — but they failed to pressure the Bruins defense and generate chances from inside.
A lot of perimeter shots. A lot of easy saves for Linus Ullmark.
Meanwhile, Boston generated three 2-on-1 opportunities that Lyon answered with 10-bell saves each time.
He was very much the reason they stayed in the game after the first period.
The Bruins would finally get to him in the second period.
Brad Marchand caught him out of position and fired a wrist shot from the top of the circle at the net 3:24 into the frame.
Lyon was able to get his glove on it but it just trickled in to give Boston a 2-0 lead.
Matthew Tkachuk got that goal back three minutes later — driving to the crease and going backhand-forehand on Ullmark before beating him with a wrist shot — but that was just about all the Panthers could muster.
The Bruins regained their two-goal lead when Jake DeBrusk poked in a puck that landed on Lyon’s pad with 2:28 to go in the second period.
Florida got a chance on the power play with 5:04 to go after Tkachuk drew a holding penalty from Nick Foligno but they could not muster anything on it.
They were slow and they could not move the puck.
That sentence just about sums up the rest of the third period, as well.
Boston appeared to put the nail in the Florida coffin with 3:16 to go with another trickler out of Lyon’s glove but it did not stand.
Garnet Hathaway took a swing at Lyon’s glove with the puck inside, causing it to trickle out of it and in. It was ruled goaltender interference upon review and taken off the board.
The Panthers tried to use it as an opportunity to claw back into the game, but Ullmark continued to hold strong.
He finished the game with 31 saves on 32 shots.
Lyon — despite a couple of leaky goals — held his own in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut, stopping 26 of 29.
Florida will look to bounce back and even the series in Game 2 on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
But if Bergeron returns from his illness, this series might end quickly.
GOALS OF THE GAME
- Bruins 1, Panthers 0 (5:58, 1st, PPG): David Pastrnak shot a feed from Tyler Bertuzzi into an open net on the power play after Marc Staal lost him and tripped up Alex Lyon.
- Bruins 2, Panthers 0 (3:21, 2nd): Brad Marchand beat Lyon with a wrist shot from deep that dribbled out of his glove and in.
- Bruins 2, Panthers 1 (6:34, 2nd): Matthew Tkachuk drove the net and made a backhand-forehand move to beat Linus Ullmark with a shot from up close.
- Bruins 3, Panthers 1 (17:32, 2nd): Jake DeBrusk poked a puck that landed on Lyon’s pad into the net with chaos ensuing in front of the net.
COLBY’S 3 STARS OF THE GAME
1. Tyler Bertuzzi, Boston
2. Linus Ullmark, Boston
3. Brad Marchand, Boston
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
- When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: T.D. Garden
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN/ESPN+
- Radio: WAXY 790-AM/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: at Boston, Wednesday, 7:30 (ESPN); Game 3: at Florida, Friday, 7:30 (TNT); Game 4: at Florida, Sunday, April 23, 3:30 (TNT); Game 5*: at Boston, Wednesday, April 26; Game 6*: at Florida, Friday, April 28; Game 7*: at Boston, Sunday, April 30.