In a season full of blow leads and frustrating losses, this one might take the cake.
The Florida Panthers went toe to toe with the NHL’s hottest team for 59 minutes before crumbling in the final minute as the Boston Bruins scored twice in a 30-second span to steal a 4-3 victory from the slumping Cats and extend its points-streak to 18 games.
Down a goal and with the Panthers down a man with Mike Hoffman off for tripping, the Bruins pulled Tuukka Rask and scored with 37 seconds remaining when Matt Grzelcyk blasted a rising shot from the point over Roberto Luongo’s shoulder after playing catch with Brad Marchand, to end a 48-game goalless drought (figures).
With the teams back to 5-on-5, Boston would win a defensive zone faceoff and push the play into Panthers end, where Mike Matheson knocked the puck into side boards and then lost a battle for possession to Marchand, who quickly fed an unmarked Patrice Bergeron in the left circle. Bergeron let go of a wrister that split Aaron Ekblad and Noel Acciari and beat Luongo blocker-side for the winner.
The Panthers had a 2-0 and 3-2 lead in the game and could not hold either.
Aleksander Barkov set a new career-high with his 29th goal to open the scoring 2:48 into the second period. Jonathan Huberdeau squeaked a pass back to Keith Yandle and Barkov deflected his shot down and through the legs of Rask to make the Bruins pay for Brandon Carlo’s tripping penalty.
The Cats would click on the power play for a second time 3:39 later with the same three players figuring in the scoring. After the Panthers worked the puck around the edge of the penalty kill box, Barkov fed into the slot for Huberdeau, who deflected the puck up into the air and then deftly swatted it home for his 19th of the campaign. The tally withstood video review and Florida had itself a cushy two-goal lead.
Barkov’s assist was his 70th point of the season. He became the third Panthers player to have consecutive 70-point seasons, joining Olli Jokinen (in 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08) and Pavel Bure (in 1999-00 and 2000-01).
Boston would get on the board late in the second when David Backes kept Josh Brown from clearing the zone and David Krejci and Danton Heinen worked not one, but two give and gos culminating in Krejci finishing off a bouncing cross from Heinen from a tough angle.
Florida would allow its 12th shorthanded goal (I could’ve sworn there were more) 8:50 into the third period. The Bruins gained possession at their blue line and moved into the Panthers zone two-on-two with three Cats trailing. No cause for alarm, right? Wrong. Bergeron took a pass from Charlie McAvoy and snapped a lazy wrister that eluded Luongo on his Achilles heel, the blocker side.
The Panthers survived the sucker punch and countered 2:05 later when Evgenii Dadonov drilled a stretch pass onto Huberdeau tape at the Boston line. Huberdeau moved in on Rask while protecting the puck from the long reach of Zdeno Chara, then wheeled around with a forehand shot that found pay dirt just inside the post. Ekblad drew the second assist on the goal that gave Huberdeau his third-straight 20-goal season.
It looked the Cats would hold on to hand the Bruins its first loss in regulation since January 19, but Hoffman’s trip of Krejci opened the door for the stunning comeback and instead Florida plunged to its sixth-straight one-goal defeat.
This was a hard one to swallow, as the Panthers gave the surging Bruins all they could handle and found a way to lose yet again. In a league where the teams and games are so tight, you just can’t keep giving up shorthanded goals. As mentioned above the Panthers are up to 12 now. I am curious as to what their record is in the games where they have given up a shorty. Luongo (24 saves) was pretty good again for the most part, but couldn’t come up with the big save at the end, exposing another glaring weakness that needs to be corrected in the offseason. The Cats get another chance to get back in the win column tonight against the Minnesota Wild, who are coming off an impressive win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)