The Florida Panthers dealt a huge blow to the Boston Bruins playoff chances with a 4-2 win over their Atlantic Division rivals last night at the BB&T Center. The Boston loss coupled with Ottawa's shutout win over the New York Rangers left the B's in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with one game remaining in the season.
The Cats were outplayed and out-shot, by a 12-7 margin, in the first period, but showed a gritty side that was missing in Sunday's lackluster loss to Montreal. Both clubs racked up three minors in the frame, with the B's getting the only power play chance, which went for naught.
The goalies keep things clean until an interference call on Willie Mitchell in the latter stages of the second period set the stage for the Bruins to finally open the scoring.
Torey Krug took a shot from the point that was stopped by Roberto Luongo. Loui Eriksson dug the puck out from in tight to crafty Patrice Bergeron, who found the back of the net with a backhand.
The Panthers answered back 3:48 later, with a power-play tally of their own, thanks to a high-sticking call on Brett Connolly.
After taking a pass from Aaron Ekblad, the victim of Connolly's transgression, Jaromir Jagr dished off to a streaking Aleksander Barkov on the wing. Barkov skated in on Tuukka Rask and fired through him from the circle for his sixteenth goal of the campaign.
The assist gave Jagr sole possession of fourth place on the NHL's All-Time scoring list, breaking a tie with Ron Francis.
With Boston's season possibly on the line, it was the Panthers who answered the bell in the third period, not the more experienced, battle-tested Bruins.
Florida took the lead at the 4:02 mark when Jonathan Huberdeau potted his fourteenth goal. Jagr found Huberdeau down low and the Panthers' leading-scorer shoveled a gorgeous backhander off a stunned Rask's shoulder. Brian Campbell drew the secondary helper on the play.
Jagr's second point of the night gave him an even 1800 in his illustrious, and lengthy, career.
The Cats added another goal just under four minutes later. Mitchell's pinch pushed the puck to Dave Bolland behind the net and he fed Brad Boyes in the slot. Boyes would make no mistake, denting the twine for the fourteenth time this year.
Brad Marchand pulled the Bruins within one with 6:45 to go when he skated out from behind the cage and whipped a seeing-eye shot past a dropped Luongo. The goal was assisted by Dennis Seidenberg and David Krejci.
Jimmy Hayes closed out the scoring, and Boston, 1:59 later with his nineteenth goal. Jussi Jokinen stole the puck and quickly found a waiting Hayes. The Dorchester, MA native stuck the dagger in his hometown team, beating Rask on the blocker side.
Luongo, who finished with 34 stops, closed the door the rest of the way, allowing the Panthers to snap a two-game losing streak and collect their 89th point of the season.
Odds & Ends
- Jaromir Jagr's didn't register a shot, but his two-point night gave him 16 points in 19 games as a Panther. In addition to stepping past Francis, the 43-year-old moved into sixth-place tie with Adam Oates on the all-time assists list with 1,079. Always nice to witness some history at the BB&T.
- Speaking of assists, Jussi Jokinen's helper on Jimmy Hayes' clincher was the 300th of his NHL career.
- Speaking of "Big" Jimmy Hayes, he ended an eight-game goalless drought with his third period marker. Hayes should have bagged his twentieth, but inexplicably missed an empty-net with time running out. Oh well, maybe Saturday.
- Tuukka Rask turned aside 26 of the 30 Panther shots he faced in the game.
- Brad Boyes has two goals in his last 12 games, with both of them coming against the Bruins.
- In addition to his assist, Torey Krug finished with a game-high eight shots on goal and one hit.
- Wanted to give props to Alex Petrovic, who squared off against Adam McQuaid, for playing a physical game and sticking up for his teammates.
- Before the game, Robert Luongo was honored by his club with a silver stick commemorating his 400th career win over Carolina last week. Stay classy, Florida.
- What does a Panther fan need after a successful night hunting bears? A hearty bow of Stanley Cup of Chowder, that's what.