(Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/AP Photo)

By Tom Calautti | Follow me on Twitter @TCalauttis

It was a picturesque spring day in Boston as the Black and Gold hosted the Florida Panthers for Game three of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. What many expected to be an explosive and bombastic exhibition of smashmouth hockey turned into a one-sided affair as the Bruins started slow and allowed Florida to completely take them out of the game. Here’s how it happened:

Slow Start

Bruins fans were revved up before the game as Andrew Ference appeared as the team’s fan banner captain. The crowd was loud, crazy, and ready to rumble. Unfortunately, the team was not. For the third time this postseason, the Black and Gold were held to under five shots in a period, and when you mix that with two ill-advised penalties, you get a recipe for losing hockey.

Boston was able to kill off the game’s first penalty after Pavel Zacha was assessed a minor for holding the stick. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to survive the ‘vulnerable minute’ when Zacha forced a breakout pass up the middle and behind Trent Frederic, leading to a turnover and possession by Florida. The puck ended up at the point, and Gustav Forsling fired a shot on the net that was tipped into the air and redirected beautifully by Boston University alum Evan Rodrigues for the game’s first goal.

“We have to get better,” said head coach Jim Montgomery about his team’s slow starts. “I have to get the players a better plan. Florida was significantly better than us, and I’ve got to come up with a better game plan.”

Penalty Kill Falters

Boston’s penalty kill was lethal in the first round against Toronto, allowing only one goal on 21 opportunities to the Maple Leafs. They were perfect in this series until the third period of game two, when Florida already had a multi-goal lead, and the game was in hand. Tonight, the penalty kill was a detriment.

With just under six minutes remaining in the second, rookie defenseman Mason Lohrei (who was one of the few bright spots in this game) took a costly high-sticking double minor that allowed Florida to open the floodgates. The Bruins were close to killing off the first two minutes of Lohrei’s penalty when Vladimir Tarasenko wired a wrist shot over the shoulder of Jeremy Swayman to give the Panthers a two-goal lead.

Tarasenko scored mere seconds before Lohrei’s first penalty expired, meaning the Bruins would have to kill another two minutes before returning to even strength. With just under three minutes remaining in the period, Matthew Tkachuk found Carter Verhaege in front for a redirect that went high above Swayman’s blocker.

Brandon Montour added a powerplay goal early in the third period to make the score 4-0. The Panthers put on a powerplay clinic that effectively put this game out of reach for the Bruins.

Montgomery said of his penalty-killing units, “I don’t think we’re on top of our game. Our execution in the last two games, the last two periods of the last game, and the first two periods of this game have just not been good enough. That’s my fault, and I have to be better.”

Late Surge Gives Bruins Hope

Boston may have surrendered a powerplay goal, but the team got a spark when Jakub Lauko took a puck hard to the net and bowled over Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Fans rained down half-empty water bottles and rally towels onto the ice, NSFW chants regarding the officials echoed through the arena, and the team finally woke up.

Lauko got the scoring started on a delayed penalty when he took a Jake DeBrusk past and fired it top shelf over the shoulder of Bobrovsky. A few minutes later, David Pastrnak sprung Mason Lohrei on a two-on-one with Jake DeBrusk. Lohrei found the winger at the top of the circle, and he picked a corner over Bobrovsky’s shoulder.

Boston’s surge wasn’t enough, as Florida would add an empty-netter from Sam Reinhart and an additional powerplay goal from Evan Rodrigues to finish the game with a final score of 6-2. Game four will take place on Sunday at 6:30 PM at TD Garden.

Game Notes

  • Brad Marchand was ruled out of the game to start the third period with an upper-body injury. Montgomery had no updates after the game and said they would know more tomorrow.
  • Jake DeBrusk scored a goal and assisted, bringing his total to eight points in ten playoff games.
  • Mason Lohrei was again a standout for Boston. His high-sticking penalty was more bad luck than bad play, and he was the team’s best player in transition.
  • Florida had five power-play goals on the night, which is not a recipe for success in the playoffs.
  • Andrew Peeke looked solid in his return to action. The Bruins may need to change up his defensive partner, but he belongs in this lineup every night.