The Panthers knew their postseason fate well before they became only the second team in NHL history with a 96-point season to miss the playoffs. But they’d been chipping away at relevancy all season, and the team that clawed its way up from 28th place to playoff hopeful wasn’t about to stop at TD Garden on Sunday.
Their goal was to finish the season that put them back on the radar — so they beat the playoff-bound Bruins 4-2 anyway. The victory kept the Bruins from clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference and having home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
Consider that goal accomplished, but it wasn’t even the loudest statement in the win, which was Florida’s third in four meetings with Boston in less than one month. That was all about the future.
Henrik Borgstrom’s first career goal — a vicious wrister — arrived 1:22 into his fourth game as a Panther. Borgstrom was the Panthers first-round pick in 2016, Trade deadline acquisition Frank Vatrano had the assist, then scored a goal of his own at 16:46 for his third point against his former team.
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The Bruins rallied and dominated the third after two periods with limited offensive zone time, but David Pastrnak’s 3-2 comeback effort fell short. That was largely thanks to James Reimer, who had a few crucial saves before exiting the game after a hard shot from Torey Krug appeared to knock the wind out of him.
Evgenii Dadonov’s 28th goal wasn’t a highlight-reeler, but the loose puck he tapped past Tuukka Rask with 1:49 left to play for the 4-2 decision sent another message: The Panthers can hang with the best.