Mired in the midst of a season-long six-game road trip, the Florida Panthers were again reliant upon goaltender Roberto Luongo to keep them in Monday night’s tilt against the Boston Bruins. The Panthers were often flat-footed in the defensive zone during the early portions of their fifth game of the trip.
And yet, they somehow stayed in it and pushed the Bruins to overtime, as recently installed interim head coach Tom Rowe presided over the Panthers bench just a short trip south from his childhood haunts in Lynn, Mass.
But the happy homecoming wasn’t meant to be, as the Panthers fell, 4-3, with David Pastrnak dancing around defenseman Michael Matheson and deked past Luongo for the game-winning goal — his second of the game — at 1:23 of the overtime period.
“We’re not going to look at the negative, it was an unbelievable effort.” Rowe said of his team’s resolve shown in the third period. “This is an incredibly tough building to come in and play.”
After Aleksander Barkov tied the game, 2-2, at 7:54 of the third with his fourth goal of the season, Boston netted the go-ahead goal with 6:52 remaining as David Backes tipped in a Ryan Spooner shot past Luongo (32 saves).
The Panthers scored the equalizer to force the game into overtime with an extra attacker on as Jason Demers pinched down the wing and beat Tuukka Rask with 1:29 remaining in regulation.
“That third period was excellent,” Rowe said. “That’s how we want to play — we want to play physical and get our forecheck going and we did a great job of that.”
Luongo was on-point early, stoning Spooner with a glove save on a one-timer from the doorstep on the power play. He also turned in another highlight-reel stop on the Bruins’ second power play chance in the first from his back in a sprawling snow angel with Backes in the paint.
But Luongo’s flair for the dramatic couldn’t keep the Bruins off the board before the intermission, as Tim Schaller snuck behind Aaron Ekblad’s back check to give Boston a 1-0 lead at 18:32 of the first.
Boston’s onslaught of shot continued throughout the second period, with the Bruins doubling up the Panthers’ shot total roughly midway through.
“It’s a pretty good, gutsy effort in a tough building,” Luongo said. “Right now, we’ll take the point and move on because we have another game tomorrow night.”
Although Boston controlled attacking zone time, the Panthers drew even just as a power play had concluded at 9:44. With Ekblad controlling below the goal line, he found Jaromir Jagr parked in the slot for a wrist shot that beat Rask to the stick side.
Panthers defenseman Mark Pysyk snapped a 14-game streak without a point while picking up the secondary assist.
The Bruins would pull ahead at 16:37 of the second, when Brad Marchand played the puck on a carom off the end wall back into the slot find David Pastrnak for a 2-1 Boston lead.
▪ The Panthers’ injury woes continued as Keith Yandle went down with a lower body injury sustained during the first period and did not return. Meanwhile, Jonathan Marchessault (lower body) and Jonathan Huberdeau (lower body) were held out of the lineup. Paul Thompson, also a Massachusetts native, made his Panthers debut.