By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
A 16-shot first period came with nothing but frustration for the Bruins.
Their frustrations were only made worse by the Panthers scoring two goals on just eight goals over that same 20-minute stretch, and created a hole the Bruins could not climb out of by the final horn, as they fell to the Panthers by a 4-1 final at TD Garden.
Down by two in the second frame, the Bruins finally got on the board thanks to some puck-movement wizardry, as Torey Krug activated in the offensive zone, jetted around and behind the net and fed the puck to the front of Roberto Luongo’s net.
Luongo struggled to get his blocker on the loose puck, and Noel Acciari was in the right spot at the right time to bang home his sixth goal of the season, scored 13:12 into the period.
With the primary helper on the goal, Krug matched his career-high of 45 assists set last year, and became the first Boston defenseman to record 45 assists in back-to-back seasons since Ray Bourque accomplished the feat in five straight seasons from 1989 to 1994.
The Bruins were then gifted an absolutely golden opportunity thanks to an interference call against the Panthers’ Jonathan Huberdeau drawn by Acciari just 31 seconds after his goal.
But their hopes for the game-tying strike were dashed when Troy Brouwer broke through on a shorthanded chance and put one through Tuukka Rask to restore the Florida edge to two.
It was a solid shot from Brouwer, sure, but it was a shot the Bruins really needed Rask to stop.
Especially given the momentum the Bruins had been generating to that point (the Brouwer goal was about as deflating as it gets), and Rask’s incredibly light workload to that point.
In need of two goals in the third period, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy attempted to turn his offense to the max. He reunited Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak as his top line, and put Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy together as his go-to offensive defensive pairing. That moved Marcus Johansson down to the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, while Brandon Carlo moved up to the right of Zdeno Chara as the Black and Gold’s shutdown pair.
But the goals did not come, as the Bruins were stoned by Luongo again and again.
It was a fitting end to what was a spectacular 30-save afternoon in the Florida crease from Luongo.
Rask, meanwhile, struggled in the losing effort, with stops on just 18 of 21 shots faced before Evgenni Dadonov’s empty-net strike made it a 4-1 final for the Panthers.
Matt Grzelcyk made his return to the B’s lineup after missing the previous eight games with an upper-body injury. The 5-foot-9 defender logged 12:42 in total in his comeback.
Prior to the game, Chris Wagner was awarded the 7th Player Award, as voted by the fans. The award goes to the player that exceeds expectations that season. The Walpole, Mass. native was a deserving candidate, too, as he’s set a career-high in goals (12), points (18), and shots (133) this season.
Up next, the Bruins will travel to Detroit for a Sunday night affair with the Red Wings.