The Florida Panthers finished off the 2017-18 season in style with a 4-2 win over the Boston Bruins that prevented the home side from claiming first place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. Florida won its final five games, but came up a single point short of making the postseason.
Henrik Borgstrom scored his first NHL goal 1:22 into the action to give the Panthers the lead. Frank Vatrano forced a turnover from defenseman Matt Grzelcyk at the Boston blue line and tapped the puck to Borgstrom, who used Adam McQuaid a screen and uploaded a wrist shot that Tuukka Rask had no chance of stopping.
The Bruins responded at the 8:18 when David Backes outmuscled Borgstrom in front to knock the rebound of Kevan Miller’s shot from the point past James Reimer. The second assist on the goal went to David Krejci.
After setting up Borgstrom’s goal, former Bruin Vatrano got one of his own at 16:46 to put the Panthers on top for good. Despite being surrounded by three Boston skaters, Jamie McGinn came up with the puck on right boards and sent a lazy cross-ice pass over to Jared McCann. McGinn dished off to Vatrano in the high slot and he quickly blasted the puck by Rask for his seventh of the season.
Florida got the only goal of the second period with 6:27 left in the frame. Keith Yandle made a nice play to glove the puck down and hold it in the Bruins zone. Yandle then fed Denis Malgin, who sent a circle-to-to-circle pass to Maxim Mamin on the right side and the 23-year-old Russian buried it to put the Cats up by two.
David Pastrnak drew Boston within a goal when he beat Reimer at 9:54 of the third, with Jonathan Huberdeau off for hooking, to cap off a crisp series of passes. Patrice Bergeron went down low to Ryan Donato, who immediately backhanded it back to Bergeron, who then whipped the puck over to Pastrnak. The young Czech calmly slung the puck by the lunging Panther keeper for his team-leading 35th goal.
Reimer, who finished with 33 saves, would leave the game with an injury a couple minutes later. Roberto Luongo, who beat the Bruins on Thursday, came off the bench and stopped all eight shots he faced in relief over the final 8:07, including this big pad save on Pastrnak right after he entered the game.
The Panthers would clinch win number forty-four with 1:49 left in regulation. Nick Bjugstad’s hustle negated an icing call and McCann picked up his own dump-in off the back boards and curled back to the top of the right circle before putting a low shot on Rask. The rebound came right to Evgenii Dadonov and he swept it home to complete the scoring.
The Panthers showed a lot of pride by beating both Buffalo and Boston after they were eliminated from postseason contention on Saturday afternoon. It’s a shame the Cats couldn’t sneak into the playoffs as they were one of the NHL’s best teams after the All-Star break, going an impressive 25-8-2 to finish the season. Florida has a lot pieces in place, and now it’s up to Dale Tallon to make the necessary tweaks over the summer to get this team over the hump back into playoffs.
Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)
Tea & Honey
- The Panthers became the second team to finish with 96 points and miss the playoffs. The Bruins were the first, missing out during the 2014-15 campaign.
- James Reimer was credited with the win, giving him a new-career best of 22 victories. Reimer appeared in 44 games this season, also a new career-high.
- Keith Yandle tied his career high with his 48th assist on Evgenii Dadonov’s goal. Yandle led the Florida defense corps with 56 points and appeared in all 82 games (again).
- David Pastrnak’s goal allowed the 21-year-old to hit the 80-point plateau for the first time in his career. Pastrnak finished second in scoring on the Bruins, five points behind Brad Marchand.
- Tuukka Rask, who made 22 stops, lost to the Panthers for the second time in three days. Hopefully this means his dominance over the Cats is finally over.
- Connor Brickley played for the first time since March 6, and finished with a block, a hit and a takeaway in TOI in what could be his final game with Florida.
- For more on the season finale, check out Stanley Cup of Chowder. The Bruins will play the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs.
- Barring a win in the lottery, the Panthers will pick 15th in the first round of 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The Cats have the Arizona Coyotes second-round pick, which is 34th overall.