Sunrise, FL – With their backs against the wall, still looking for a playoff spot, the Florida Panthers need to make every game count. With a difficult opponent in Boston right before the NHL All-Star Game, the underdog Cats gave the Bruins all they could handle to the tune of a thrilling 4-3 overtime win.
When the Lyon Meets the Bear
Florida thought they had a solid backup goalie on their hands with Alen Lyon, who had won his first two games played with the Panthers in impressive fashion, but Lyon has since underperformed with three straight losses with the majority being on the road. The four-game losing streak is the longest for the Cats this season, who entered the Boston matchup with a 23-22-6 record.
Coach Maurice confirms that Gustav Forsling will play tonight against the Bruins.— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) January 28, 2023
Chris Tierney draws in and Alex Lyon will be in net.
Meanwhile, Boston can be considered one of the best teams in the NHL, sitting with a 38-6-4 record. After a six-game winning streak that began in early January, the Bruins lost a match to Tampa Bay before taking the turnpike down to Sunrise. Out of Boston’s six losses, one of them came from the hands of Florida back in late November.
A Bit of a Blizzard Down South
Boston did what they do best and start games on fire, with blazing by Florida with the shots on goal. That said, the Panthers defense was put to the test early and actually succeeded. While Lyon was targeted repeatedly, he delivered.
Things got physical five minutes in when a bunch of breaks started to occur and player retaliation became the norm. Naturally, more physical play results in an abundance of penalties, and that’s what happened with four penalties in the next five minutes.
Despite the power play opportunities for both teams, the defenses stepped up and controlled the ice. All the while, the Bruins were the more aggressive team and kept the puck in Panthers territory for the majority of the period.
They would finally score 16 minutes in when Boston center Craig Smith intercepted a pass from Florida defenseman Brandon Montour right in front of Lyon and the net, in which Smith cashed in for an easy goal. That was all the scoring in the first as, once again, the Cats found themselves trailing entering the first intermission of the game.
Way to be, Smitty. 🚨 pic.twitter.com/aDWMnmxprp— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 28, 2023
A Grizzly Display on Defense
One thing that was certain through the first two periods was the dominance of Boston in maintaining control of the puck. The majority of time spent for Florida was fending off Bruin opportunities, though Lyon and the Cats defense did their job just as well as the best of the NHL.
It wasn’t easy, however. Six shots within the first five minutes of the first period created Boston’s momentum out of the gate. That was combined with another Panthers penalty right after, resulting in seven more shots with the majority on goal.
That said, Florida didn’t need much to respond. When they had opportunities, they cashed in when it mattered, starting with a goal by Montour nine minutes in. He caught a longshot by the captain Aleksander Barkov with his stick and redirected it midair for the right angle to get by Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman.
CRAZY redirect from Monty on this Sasha shot 🤯 pic.twitter.com/xZOdWY62WF— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) January 29, 2023
After the Florida goal, the defenses locked up and didn’t allow much action, similar to the ending of the first period. Just like that period, Boston caught a stray goal with about two minutes left in devastating fashion.
After an onslaught on Lyon, a shot by center Charlie Coyle was shot toward the slot and, in an effort in clearing the puck out, Panthers center Sam Bennett accidentally tapped it into the net for a 2-1 Bruins lead entering the third.
A Brutal Beatdown for Beantown
An interesting theme for Florida in this game is players rectifying earlier mistakes. It began with Montour whose pass was caught by Boston and cashed in for the first goal of the game. Montour then scored in the second to tie the game up.
Then, Bennett committed an own goal by mistake to give the Bruins yet another lead. Sam corrected that with a goal eight minutes into the third period, by sliding a roller between the legs of Swayman to tie the game up once more.
At one point in the second period, Boston had doubled their shots on goal over Florida by 30-15. However, in the third period, the tone of the game seemed to change completely in favor of the Cats. They were the dominant team on offense, keeping the puck in Boston territory and killing time off the clock as a result.
It didn’t take long for the game to get down to the wire, and an opportunity to break away with the puck could spell out doom. But with no scoring for ten straight minutes, you couldn’t help but feel that overtime was on the horizon.
Bruins right wing David Pastrnak had a different idea. With only one 49 seconds left, Pastrnak sank a wrister that found a way through a wall of Panthers and into the net for a crushing goal, giving Boston a 3-2 lead.
With less than a minute left, Florida took out their goalie for a bit of added pressure on offense. Every shot they took was blocked away or off the mark, except for a clutch left side swipe by Barkov that got into the net with three seconds to go, tying the game up and forcing an overtime period.
CELLYS FOR THE AGES pic.twitter.com/tAkxTFzLDK— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) January 29, 2023
With all the momentum in the world, Florida began overtime with the puck in play and did not disappoint. Off a pass by Barkov, center Sam Reinhardt chucked a high shot that dinked off the top of the post and into the net for a game-winner 17 seconds into OT, completing a comeback that lasted all of 20 seconds.
Statistics With a Side of Boston Lager
In the midst of the craziness, Barkov had one of his most impressive games of the season. He did it all, scoring one goal and collecting two assists including the game-winner in OT, recording his 600th NHL point.
WHAT A WAY TO REACH 600 POINTS pic.twitter.com/Pp8IqYF1wg— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) January 29, 2023
Against one of the best offenses in hockey, Lyon had a remarkable night coming off a tough stretch of losses, recording 38 saves with 13 coming in power plays.
Boston collected 40 shots on the night, edging out Florida’s 37. In addition, the Bruins committed fewer penalties and blocked more shots. With all that said, the Panthers played their best hockey in the clutch and squeezed out a crucial win before the All-Star Break.
With a 24-22-6 record, the Cats can have the week off and enjoy the festivities in South Florida before returning to action to secure a playoff spot before the end of the season. They’re still in fifth place in the Atlantic Division and are three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild-card spot in the playoffs.
Florida’s next game will be at home on Monday, February 6th at 7 pm against the Tampa Bay Lightning. This will start a three-game homestand in which they’ll also face the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche.
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