Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 10: Kyle Okposo #8 of the Florida Panthers skates with the puck against Mason Lohrei #6 of the Boston Bruins during the second period in Game Three of the Second Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 10, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Bruins had life.

It was only 1-0. Goaltender Jeremy Swayman had just made a massive save to snuff out a 2-on-1 rush. They kept the puck in the Panthers’ end for 1:11 straight at one point. They forechecked, they stayed strong on the puck, strong along the boards, strong at the blue line.

But all it took was one play at the other end to extinguish the Bruins’ momentum. Defenseman Mason Lohrei ran his stick up too high on the Panthers’ Steven Lorentz, and gave him a fat lip. So, referee Dan O’Rourke did his dental exam and slapped Lohrei with a four-minute penalty.

Less than four minutes later, the game was effectively out of reach.

That devastating sequence in the second period of the Bruins’ Game 3 loss to the Panthers essentially decided things. The B’s were able to pick it back up for much of the third period, at one point cutting the Panthers’ lead from four down to two, but it was too little, too late.

May 10, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) smiles as he is hugged by left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) after scoring on Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) and defenseman Brandon Carlo (25) during the second period of game three of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

  • Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery was hesitant to call out the officials, especially since the Lohrei penalty was more clear-cut than the others. But he acknowledged those second-period moments as when things took a turn for the worse.

    “I can’t really say that we earned more power plays,” Montgomery said. “In the second period, I thought we were coming, and unfortunately we got the high stick, in a stick battle fighting for a puck, and that changed the game.”

    The Bruins didn’t have to give up any goals on that four-minute kill, but that was a tall order against a deep, skilled Panthers power play. Nonetheless, their struggles to clear the puck from their own end resurfaced when defenseman Derek Forbort got caught holding the puck with a chance to chip it out, instead giving it away.

    Mere seconds later, the puck was in the back of the net off a rocket by Vladimir Tarasenko from the faceoff dot.

  • The Bruins have to find a way to clear the puck out of their end better, whether on the PK or at even strength. But the Panthers play an offensive style that’s built for the playoffs, and do it at a high level, with a forward group that’s simply superior. They’ve demonstrated that starkly over the past two games.

    “[The Panthers] were doing a good job coming down the walls and winning that secondary battle,” said defenseman Brandon Carlo. “I think we as defensemen need to move pucks a little bit faster on first touch when we can, to enable our forwards to have that time to make that next chip. But, they did a good job forechecking tonight. You tip your cap to that, but, we’ve got to be better in that department, absolutely.”

    MORE: Bruins dealt concerning Brad Marchand news in Game 3 loss to Panthers

    The Bruins have to find a way to take that momentum they had for a brief time in the second period, and especially in the third period, bottle it up, and save it for Game 4. They had to play like a desperate team throughout this series, because they’re going up against a clearly better team that matches up well against them. It took too long for that desperation to show up.

    If they can reignite that fire, and avoid costly mistakes, they’ll have a chance to come back in the series. But if it continues the way it did in the first two periods on Friday night, they may not make it back to Boston next week.

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