June 21st, 2024

Panthers beat Bruins 2-1 with late game-winner, advance to Eastern Conference final

By Jimmy Golen, The Associated Press on May 17, 2024.

BOSTON (AP) – Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice considered it a good omen when the fire alarm went off at the team hotel Friday afternoon, just as he was settling in for a pre-game nap.

“In my career, the number of times that something got messed up at the hotel “¦ it’s like a guaranteed win,” Maurice said after a 2-1 victory over Boston earned the Panthers a spot in the Eastern Conference finals. “I said, “˜If this holds true, I guarantee we’re winning today.'”

Maurice’s superstition held true a few hours later when defenceman Gustav Forsling scored the tiebreaking goal with 1:33 left, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 22 shots to help the Panthers beat the Bruins 2-1 and clinch their second-round playoff series in six games.

A year after playing for the Stanley Cup, the Panthers will meet the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals.

Maurice may have been deprived of a nap Friday, but his team has five days to prepare for Wednesday’s Game 1 against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

“I’m not doing anything with that,” he said. “I need a day off.”

Anton Lundell scored for the Panthers and also set up the game-winner when his shot was deflected to the left side of the net. Forsling came in and beat Jeremy Swayman on the short side.

“I didn’t see it go in. I just saw someone else react. It was amazing,” said Forsling, who scored 10 goals this season – one of them a game-winner. “I’m not usually the guy who scores the game-winning goal; I’m out there trying to defend. It’s nice to help your team win, but I’ll stick to defence.”

Florida won all three games in Boston this series and six straight playoff games at the TD Garden. The Panthers also knocked the record-setting Bruins out of the playoffs last year on their way to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

“They had had such a big year last year,” Maurice said. “This series felt way different than last year’s. I think we’re a much better team than we were last year when we came in here.”

Swayman stopped 26 shots for the Bruins. Pavel Zacha scored to give Boston a 1-0 lead late in the first period, but they were unable to beat Bobrovsky again. In the series, the Panthers outshot the Bruins 198-135.

“You can’t win every game 2-1,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said. “Their goalie was good, and we didn’t beat him.”

The Bruins got captain Brad Marchand back after he missed two games with an injury believed to be a concussion. The longest-tenured member of the roster got a big ovation at introductions; Montgomery said it helped propel Boston to a better start than previous games, where it spotted the Panthers to a lopsided shooting advantage early.

“That ovation at the beginning of the game says it all,” he said. “I thought it was going to be our night before the game. I thought our players were loose and confident. They went out and played that way.”

Boston took the lead with a minute left in the first period when Jake DeBrusk made a no-look backhanded pass to Zacha to send him on a breakaway. Brandon Carlo also helped by flattening Carter Verhaeghe at the blue line to keep him from pursuing the puck.

But Florida tied it with seven minutes left in the second, after a scramble in front of the Boston net that left DeBrusk on the ice. Lundell swooped into the slot and swept the puck past Swayman.

TOO MANY TOO MANY MEN

The Bruins were called for having too many men on the ice for a record seventh time this post-season. The bench minor early in the second period did not result in a goal for the Panthers.

___

AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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