Milan Lucic scored with a 1:09 remaining in regulation time to give the Boston Bruins a titanic 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers last night at TD Garden. The loss dealt a huge blow to the Cats playoff hopes, leaving the club six points behind the Bruins with just five games left on the regular-season slate.
After Torey Krug hit the post early in the frame and David Krejci rang one off the iron later, Boston registered the only goal of the opening period at 16:57 on veteran forward Loui Eriksson's twentieth of the season. Carl Soderberg forced Aleksander Barkov into a terrible turnover and Eriksson collected the puck and out-waited Roberto Luongo before shoveling a backhander over the fallen netminder.
The Cats were lucky to get out of the first down by one, and got another break when Brad Marchand headed to the penalty box for high-sticking Erik Gudbranson just forty-six seconds into the second stanza.
Brandon Pirri lit the lamp nine seconds later for his twenty-first goal of the season. After having his initial point shot blocked, Pirri gathered the puck and sent over to Brian Campbell. Soup returned it for the patented Pirri one-time blast. Tie game.
The Panthers took the lead at the 12:39 mark courtesy of a Matt Bartkowski gaffe. Bartkowski's misadventure high in the offensive zone allowed Brad Boyes, back in the lineup after being scratched against Ottawa, to lug the puck all the way up the ice before he took aim and slid one along the ice through the wickets of the venerable Tuukka Rask.
Boston would trail until midway through the final frame, when the Bruins showed Florida it's not the only team boasting some seriously talented youngsters.
18-year-old rookie David Pastrnak got the goal, his eleventh, after Lucic chased down a dump-in and dropped it back to 23-year-old Ryan Spooner. Spooner quickly slung the puck at the net and Pastrnak was in front to deflect it by a helpless Luongo.
It looked like the key battle in the Wild Card war was heading to overtime until Lucic provided the heroics with sixty-nine ticks left before the buzzer sounded.
Lucic took a pass from Pastrnak in the neutral zone and surged over the blue line, blowing by Jimmy Hayes in the process. Finding himself in the gap between Floirda's forwards and defenseman, the veteran forward fired the puck past Luongo for the game-winner. Spooner picked up the secondary assist on Lucic's eighteenth marker.
Hayes had a chance to tie the game late, but his shot, right after an offensive zone face-off win by Dave Bolland with Luongo on the bench, found the pipe instead of the back of the net.
The Panthers put up a real good fight, but a couple of sloppy moments, the Barkov turnover in the first and a choppy line change right before Lucic's decider, were too much to overcome as the club failed to add to its tenuous lead in the 17:10 span between the Boyes goal and Pastrnak's equalizer. Luongo didn't exactly look like an all-star on the Eriksson goal, and he'd probably want Lucic's back as well.
While Florida is still mathematically alive, the chances of the playoff-savvy Bruins failing to come up with the necessary three points to shut the Cats out of the postseason (and that's if the Panthers win all five remaining games) are between slim and none. Looks like (bear) hunting season is over.
Chairs & Porridge
- Tuukka Rask finished the game with 22 stops to post the win while Roberto Luongo turned aside 26 of 29 Bruin shots he faced. Luongo made an unreal blocker save on Carl Soderberg early in the third period.
- Brandon Pirri, playing in his 100th NHL game, continued to be the Cats' hot hand. The second period tally gave him 8 goals in his last 10 games and 18 in the last 25 tilts. Wow, just wow...
- The Panthers ended their final road trip of the 2014-15 season with a respectable 2-2-1 record. Unfortunately, a little more than respectable was needed.
- Florida played in its league-leading 47th one-goal game last night.
- Patrice Bergeron didn't figure in the scoring, but put a game-high five shots on Luongo.
- The Cats outhit the B's by 32-23 count, with Erik Gudbranson leading the way with five of those.
- Boston beat Florida for the eighth straight time at TD Garden. The Panthers will have to wait for next year to end that skid. The club's meet one more time this season at the BB&T Center on April 9.
- You'll have to choke down the bitter taste of Stanley Cup of Chowder for the other side of this one. Yuck...