(Photo Credit: Tom Calautti/Black N’ Gold Hockey)

By Tom Calautti | Follow me on Twitter @TCalauttis

Any dreams of a comeback in this series were dashed last night as the Florida Panthers vanquished the Boston Bruins in Game Six of their second-round Stanley Cup Playoffs rematch. Here’s how it went down:

Zacha Breaks Through

The Boston Bruins potentially had their best start of the season, and they pinned Florida down for the first 3:30 minutes of the game, which led to several scoring chances and a power play. 

After Boston’s man advantage fizzled out, the first period settled into a back-and-forth affair with both teams struggling to sustain pressure and generate offense. It looked like the period would end scoreless when Jake DeBrusk sprung Pavel Zacha on a breakaway off a gorgeous backhand feed. Zacha snuck behind the defense and roofed a backhand past Sergei Bobrovsky to give his team a 1-0 lead.

“I thought it was going to be our night before the game,” said Jim Montgomery. I thought our players were loose and confident, and they went out and played that way.”

Florida Response

The Panthers got to their game in the second, hemming the Bruins into their end for several extended shifts. The Black and Gold weathered the storm until just after the halfway point of the second period when Anton Lundell buried the equalizer.

The play started when Carter Verhaege fired a shot that a sprawling Jake DeBrusk blocked in the slot. While DeBrusk was down, both Morgan Geekie and Parker Wotherspoon had chances to make plays on the puck, but it found its way onto Lundell’s stick, and he whipped it past Jeremy Swayman.

The eventual winner was scored in the third period with less than two minutes remaining. Aleksander Barkov fired a seemingly harmless shot that Swayman could bat away. Defenseman Gustav Forsling beat Parker Wotherspoon to the loose puck and batted it short-side, squeezing between Swayman and the post.

Missed Opportunities

You can’t tell the story of tonight’s game without discussing the sheer number of scoring opportunities Boston failed to convert. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Bruins finished the game with a 25-22 edge in scoring chances at even strength and dominated the high-danger chance battle by a margin of 16-8.

“I didn’t sense any frustration, but the lack of our ability to score in the playoffs in general,” said Jim Montgomery following the game. “You can’t win every game 2-1. We had the opportunities; I think we had five odd-man rushes after two periods tonight…Their goalie was good, and we didn’t beat him.”

Some grade-A chances, in particular, may haunt the Bruins as they head into the offseason. David Pastrnak had a breakaway in the early minutes of the second period, Justin Brazeau had a golden one-time chance from the slot, and Charlie McAvoy had two chances in tight, one saved by Bobrovsky and the other going just wide.

Boston’s Centennial Season ends six games into the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With several players set to hit free agency and trade rumors looming, Bruins fans are staring down the barrel of what could be a franchise-altering offseason.

Game Notes

  • Brad Marchand returned to the lineup after missing two games with an upper-body injury. The captain talked postgame about how proud he is of this group for coming as far as they did this season.
  • Jake DeBrusk told me he broke his left hand (bottom on his stick) right before the bye week of the regular season. He said that hindered him for the last month of the regular season and that he didn’t feel completely healthy until Game One of the playoffs.
  • Jeremy Swayman made 26 saves and was serenaded by the TD Garden faithful with chants of ‘SWAYMAN, SWAYMAN’ as he left the ice. This was a truly exceptional playoff run for Boston’s goaltender.