The heavily depleted Boston Bruins met some hungry Panthers in the Sunshine State this evening. The sight of James Reimer usually leaves Bruins fans with a smile, not tonight.
The Boston Bruins were without Jake DeBrusk and Zdeno Chara who were ruled out for both tonight and Saturday with upper-body injuries. Both are not believed to be long term. With Bergeron and McAvoy already out the Bruins were without their top-pairing, number one centre and second-best rookie.
The Bruins came out with some serious jump to begin the game. Hemming the Panthers in their zone before former Bruin Frank Vatrano made a statement after 90 seconds by running over Anton Khudobin. The recently traded forward would’ve been eagerly anticipating this fixture.
Question marks could be raised about the ice conditions with the puck taking some interesting bounces. Tim Schaller then lost an edge and slid into James Reimer, not a retaliation to Vatrano’s act but simply the loss of an edge. Mike Matheson was very fortunate not to receive a penalty for the treatment he gave Schaller on the floor.
You wouldn’t need to know the divisional alignment of the NHL to know that these two were rivals. Heavy extra-curricular activity ensued from the off with the referees (more on them later) intent on letting the two teams play.
Aaron Ekblad got the Panthers in front as Barkov’s line assaulted the Bruins net relentlessly. Ekblad batting the puck into an empty net. 1-0 Panthers. The goal came against the run of the play with the Bruins having a couple of good looks just before the turnover.
Nick Bjugstad made it 2-0 soon after, a lacklustre defensive effort allowed the Panthers to exploit the left flank before firing the puck across goal allowing Bjugstad to tuck it home. It was certainly evident which team was desperate for the two point thus far in the tilt.
Matt Grzelcyk made a vital interception in front of his own net leading to a quick two-on-one breakaway, leading to Reimer making his 10th save of the period.
Pandemonium would ensue before the completion of the first. David Backes with a hit on Vincent Trocheck at centre ice leading to a fight with Mike Matheson who finally got his chance to dance. Backes was awarded a match penalty for a hit from behind, which begs belief seeing as he caught him in the upper chest area.
A match penalty means Backes is automatically suspended by the league pending a review. The Bruins marginally outshot the Panthers 14-10 after the first.
Still reeling from the Backes match penalty, the Bruins certainly came out with some anger. With three minutes remaining on the major penalty dished out to Backes, the Bruins dug deep and didn’t falter.
Continuing to push offensively, James Reimer held strong for the Panthers denying the increasingly desperate Bruins. The Boston Bruins just couldn’t seem to get any puck luck as Jonathan Huberdeau somehow managed to prevent the puck from fully crossing the line.
Rick Nash was the next to feel the wrath of the officials, a goaltender interference call. Harder to argue against this one. Vincent Trocheck sniped the puck from the right-hand dot on the powerplay past Anton Khudobin making it 3-0 Panthers.
Brad Marchand showed some signs of individual excellence but simply didn’t have the supporting cast tonight.
In a rare twist of fate the Boston Bruins found themselves on the powerplay, desperately needing the next goal if they were to make a comeback. They huffed and puffed but alas could not blow Reimer’s house down. Torey Krug with 30 seconds left in the period tested Reimer from the left hand side with a quick wrist shot.
Shots after the second were once again Boston’s favour 26-20.
The Bruins had a fantastic opportunity after Aaron Ekblad’s stick imploded in the defensive zone. Boston couldn’t capitalise on the chance with Pastrnak taking a huge hit from the stick-less Ekblad.
A hooking call on Keith Yandle gave the Bruins another look on the man-advantage. 0 for 2 on the night thus far. Torey Krug with a one-timer, Reimer stopping once again. Anton Khudobin was called on shortly after with Marchand gifting the Panthers a two-on-one shorthanded chance.
The Bruins worked for some extended offensive zone time. Danton Heinen being particularly impressive, utilising strong puck possession and work-ethic before almost tipping a puck past the indecipherable Reimer.
David Pastrnak drew a penalty for the Bruins with just over eight minutes remaining in the third. The powerplay coughed and spluttered all night and once again could not convert. A late attempt by Coach Cassidy to pull Khudobin proved to be fruitless as the game finished 3-0 to the Florida Panthers. Reimer stopping all 46 of the shots he faced.
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Absolutely no need to panic. The Florida Panthers deserved the points tonight in my opinion showed some fierce intensity for half of the first period which proved to be fatal to the Bruins efforts.
Missing Bergeron, McAvoy, Chara and Debrusk is hugely detrimental. The Bruins want them as a healthy as possible for the playoffs so it’s important not to rush them back at this stage. But, when they do come back and with Rask starting in net, this Bruins team is capable of something special this season.