Zdeno Chara celebrated inking a one-year, $2 million contract extension earlier in the day by scoring his 200th NHL goal. The towering defenseman added an assist and also took Aleksander Barkov to the ice late in the game to help his Boston Bruins beat up on the toothless Florida Panthers 7-3 to officially punch its ticket to the postseason.
Others producing a goal and and an assist for Boston were Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand . Former Panther Steven Kampfer, Karson Kuhlman and Noel Acciari had the other goals for the Bruins, who looked every bit big and bad last night. Danton Heinen collected two assists and backup keeper Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves and also had a helper as the Bruins bumped its winning streak to four games and surpassed the 100-point mark.
The Panthers made things easy for the visiting B’s by turning the puck over 24 times and showed little to no push back against Boston’s physicality.
Samuel Montembeault made 32 saves, including 15 in the first period when he only surrendered Acciari’s early goal, in his roughest NHL start thus far.
Jayce Hawryluk scored from in close off a nice pass from Mike Hoffman early in the second period and 24 seconds after Marchand’s goal (courtesy of a ghastly Mike Matheson giveaway) to pull the Panthers back within a goal.
The Bruins quickly tacked on two more in a span of 1:33 with an unmarked Chara beating Montembeault from the above the circles and Kuhlman, after picking off a MacKenzie Weegar pass at center, skating by the defenseman and ripping a shot into the back of the net.
The Panthers would climb back into the game briefly when Weegar sent Hoffman away on a breakaway and he beat Halak with a low, hard wrister from the right circle at the 10:04 mark. Josh Brown drew the secondary helper, his first-ever NHL assist.
For a second time, the Bruins would respond to a Florida goal with two of their own.
After a series of passes, Kampfer snapped a shot from just above the right circle by Montembeault for a power-play goal at 15:48 and Pastrnak took a long pass from Chara and finished off the ensuing breakaway on the forehand 48 seconds later.
Aaron Ekblad and Henrik Borgstrom combined to set up Vincent’s Trocheck power-play one-timer from the left circle 3:57 into the third, but the Panthers would fail to close the gap any further before Bergeron completed the scoring with an empty-netter with 27 seconds left on the clock.
As frustrating as this season has been, the Panthers haven’t thrown up a lot of the stinkers, but this was definitely one of them, and it was pretty hard to watch. The Cats looked thoroughly outclassed and outmatched physically against the Bruins, who proceeded to quickly put up two goals for every one the Panthers scored in the second, while meeting little to no resistance. Not the way you want to play with a four-game road trip looming. It will be interesting to see what kind of response the Cats have when the two clubs meet again on Saturday night. Of note, Keith Yandle played in his 900th NHL game and Barkov (8 games) and Jonathan Huberdeau (4 games) had their respective scoring streaks halted. Florida’s dynamic duo was held to a combined three shots on goal.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)