Halfway through the first period on Monday, the Panthers didn’t look like they belonged on the same ice as the Boston Bruins.
Boston’s 5-4 overtime win sure didn’t end that way.
The Panthers fought back from a three-goal deficit, but the Bruins scored a goal in overtime to grab the win Monday. Lee Stempniak scored with one minute remaining in overtime to salvage a victory for the Bruins.
Jiri Hudler scored his second goal of the game to knot the score at 4-4 with 4:43 to go in the third for the Panthers, who scored three unanswered goals to salvage a point before the Bruins’ game-winner.
BB&T Center continued to look like a second home for the Bruins, who improved to 10-2-1 in their past 13 road games against the Panthers. Boston now holds a 13-1-1 record over their past 15 matchups with Florida. The Panthers’ sole regulation win during the stretch came nearly a year ago on April 9, 2015.
The Bruins, who beat the Panthers for the third time this season, are now tied with Florida for second place in the Atlantic Division.
The Panthers dominated the shot category as they racked up 51 to Boston’s 32. Florida goalkeeper Al Montoya, who replaced Roberto Luongo after the first period, would allow just one goal, but that was enough for the Bruins to grab the win.
A strong second period brought the Panthers within a goal of the Bruins, but Florida couldn’t quite close the gap.
“The second and third was great,” Montoya said. “There’s no reason why we can’t bring that for 60 minutes. These little habits are creeping into our game and it’s gotta stop. It’s not our team identity: the way we started this game, the way we’ve been playing these last few games.”
Jiri Hudler scored his first goal with the Panthers to cut the lead to two 3:15 into the second period, and Jussi Jokinen kept the momentum going with a power-play goal.
Jokinen’s score with 13:52 to go in the period brought the Panthers within 4-3 and continued his team-best, eight-game point streak.
Shawn Thornton, who attracted a swarm of Boston media during Monday’s morning skate, missed much of the second period after he racked up 17 penalty minutes for instigating a fight and ripping off the helmet of former Bruins teammate Adam McQuaid. He’d earn another two-minute minor in the third period.
The Bruins began to build their lead when Patrice Bergeron scored on Luongo just 34 seconds into Monday’s contest. They tacked on another not long after when Matt Beleskey fed David Pastrnak, who handled the puck and pushed a backhand through Luongo’s five hole. The Panthers challenged the play, but the call on the ice stood and the Bruins took a 2-0 lead with 13 minutes to go in the first period.
Brett Connolly’s unassisted goal increased Boston’s lead to 3-0 with 7:38 to go in the first period.
The Panthers finally broke through with 3:12 to go when Sasha Barkov cut the gap to 3-1. Barkov joined Nathan Horton as the second player in Florida history to score 20 goals in a season before turning 21. Jaromir Jagr picked up his 1851st point on the play, which moved him past Gordie Howe and into second place on the all-time scoring list.
“It’s not like they outplayed us,” Jagr said. “It’d be a different story if they outplayed us. We just [gave] it to them.”
Florida’s comeback took a quick detour when Bergeron buried one on an odd-man-rush just 37 seconds later to push the Boston lead back up to three, and Boston took the 4-1 lead to the dressing room.
ON THE MEND
Derek MacKenzie and Willie Mitchell joined the Panthers on the ice during Monday’s morning skate, but both were wearing light blue jerseys. Coach Gerard Gallant said afterward both players are close to returning, and that MacKenzie could play as soon as Thursday.
“Nobody’s pushing anybody,” Gallant said, “and when they’re ready they’ll tell us.”
Teddy Purcell, who joined the Panthers from the Oilers before the trade deadline, missed Monday night’s game with a slight groin injury, Gallant said.
JUST LIKE ’96
The Panthers continued to struggle Monday night after they lost four of five games and grabbed just three points during their recent trips. Former player Bill Lindsay, who also worked on the Panthers’ broadcast team, took to Twitter on Sunday to remind fans to “take a deep breath!”
Lindsay’s 1996 Panthers also struggled down the stretch, losing 14 of their last 20 games. That season “turned out OK,” Lindsay tweeted. The Panthers, of course, marched to the Stanley Cup Finals that season, and Lindsay scored the winning goal to beat the Bruins in the opening series of the playoffs.