Recap: Depleted Panthers fall 5-3 to undefeated Bruins in road trip finale

Down two defensemen, Cats fight to the bitter end

The Florida Panthers lost its first game under new head coach Paul Maurice, dropping a hard-fought 5-3 decision to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.

Defenseman Brandon Montour didn’t play in the game and Aaron Ekblad departed with a lower-body injury at 12:35 of the second period after Patrice Bergeron put the Bruins up 2-1.

The Cats fell behind right out of the gate when Jake DeBrusk stole the puck from Gustav Forsling and jetted down the ice before beating Sergei Bobrosvky from the right circle just 21 seconds after the opening faceoff. That’s a tone-setting save that Bobrovsky needs to make.

Florida drew even 4:32 into the middle frame on Sam Bennett’s first of the season. After taking a pass from Rudolfs Balcers behind the net, Matthew Tkachuk curled back to the right circle and then found Bennett with a pretty back-door pass for the easy redirection.

Another self-inflicted wound helped Boston regain the lead 8:03 later. After an offensive zone faceoff win by Aleskander Barkov, Carter Verhaeghe tried to feed Ekblad at the right point. The puck sailed past the defenseman and DeBrusk outraced him to take possession and fended off Forsling before sending a backhand pass over to Bergeron, who finished on the backhand.

David Pastrnak put the Bruins up two at 7:01 of the third period when he put the puck between Marc Staal’s legs and then slid it through Bobrovsky five-hole. Bergeron and Connor Clifton drew the helpers on Pasta’s second helping of the season.

Trent Frederic made it a three-goal Boston advantage at 12:31 when he took a pass from A.J. Greer and wrapped the puck in from underneath the goal line. Clifton picked up a second secondary assist on another shot that Bobrovsky should’ve stopped.

The Panthers got right back in it thanks to some hard work along the boards by Eetu Luostarinen and Colin White, who got the assists on Forsling’s long-range bullet, which beat a screened Linus Ullmark, just 27 seconds after Frederic’s goal.

White would equal Tkachuk’s team-leading four points after he stuffed in the rebound of Forsling’s shot that struck Bennett first and sat down in the crease with 1:37 remaining and Bobrovsky off for an extra attacker.

DeBrusk clinched it for Bruins, scoring his second unassisted goal of the night into an empty net 34 seconds later.

The outmanned Panthers gave a gritty effort, pelting Ullmark with 41 shots, but playing from behind for most of the game and a wonky 0 for 4 effort on the power play helped do them in. Not the best of night’s from Bobrovsky either. He needed to be better with the team down one, then two defensemen. The Cats first line has been disappointing. They played three games and Barkov, Verhaeghe, and Sam Reinhart, who had a glorious chance with the score tied 1-1, have yet to score a goal.  Barkov’s two assists and Reinhart’s lone helper have all come on the power play. That said, the Panthers went 2-1 on the road trip which is a result you’ll always take. The Cats will host the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday. Cap-strapped Florida’s depth could be seriously tested due to the injuries on defense.

Tea & Honey

  • With Brandon Montour and then Aaron Ekblad out, Gustav Forsling stepped up his game. Forsling finished with a goal and an assist, played a game-high 28:14; was credited with two hits; and blocked a shot.
  • Matthew Tkachuk, Eetu Luostarinen and Colin White have picked up points in all three of Florida’s games this season.
  • Patrice Bergeron registered his 402nd career goal, tying Rick “Nifty” Middleton for third in Bruins franchise history. Only Phil Esposito (459) and Johnny Bucyk (545) have scored more.
  • Sergei Bobrovsky is now 1-1 after finishing with 29 saves on 33 Boston shots. Linus Ullmark is 2-0 after his 38-save effort.
  • Boston has opened the season red-hot offensively, amassing 16 goals scored by 12 different players in its first three games.
  • Rudolfs Balcers secondary assist on Sam Bennett’s goal was his first point in a Panthers kit. Balcers didn’t have a shot on goal, but did have two hits and a block.
  • The Bruins stay undefeated by handing the Panthers their first loss. Stanley Cup of Chowder has more.../