(Photo: Alan Sullivan)
Saturday afternoon the Boston Bruins played host to the Florida Panthers in a matinee showdown. The Bruins were coming off their win in Montreal from Wednesday while the Panthers had defeated the Washington Capitals on Thursday. In the standings Florida was just one point behind the Bruins and both teams continued to strive for important points to put themselves in playoff positions, even with a lot of the regular season remaining.
While the press seemed concerned that the Bruins would feel an emotional let down after their big win against the Canadiens, the team was not pleased with their play on Wednesday night. Their mission on Saturday was to come out hard and dictate the pace of the game against the Panthers. Throughout the first period and much of the second that’s exactly what they did.
At the end of the first the Bruins had outshot the Panthers 10-6 and been effective in forcing the Panthers to the outside, giving them little space to move or think. At 11:35 of that first period, having been taken down in front of the Panther’s net, Ryan Spooner was just getting himself back into position when he found he had an opportunity to deflect a shot from Torey Krug getting the puck in and the Bruins up one, having reaped rewards for their attacking and focused play.
While no penalties were called in the first period, such would not be the case in the second. At 6:24 of the second, Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad tripped Zac Rinaldo and as the whistle blew and the teams were huddled in the corner, some pushing and shoving by both players saw each go to their respective box. When the penalties were finally assessed Ekblad was given two for tripping and two for roughing while Rinaldo got two for roughing. This put the Bruins on the power play—a position at which they have been quite profitable this season.
The zone time and cycling of the power play unit was as textbook as could be and with less than 30 seconds remaining on the man advantage, Spooner was able to get the puck five hole on Roberto Luongo to give the Bruins a little breathing room.
Through the first forty minutes, the Bruins had done a good job of controlling the game and outshooting the Panthers. In fact they had managed to prevent Jaromir Jagr from getting a single shot on goal in those first two frames. However, the third period would see the Panthers attempt to rally and the Bruins begin to give them more space.
It was clear as the teams began the third that the Panthers were the more determined team, outshooting the Bruins 14 to 5 by the final horn. The overall coverage by the team in black was completely different than it had been in the earlier periods—with many of the Panthers having plenty of time and space to set up shots. So it was not surprising when Reilly Smith, from the right point, managed to get one past Tuukka Rask with 6:04 remaining in regulation.
“They had a lot of movement in the [defensive] zone and they’re looking to make plays and it comes down to communicating with one another and finding those guys and kind of not running around,” Adam McQuaid said after the game. “When you’re starting to run around and, you know, you get two guys, one guy trying to cover for another guy and another guy tries to cover for that and they just kind of compound so you just kind of have to worry about your job and sort things out.”
While six minutes doesn’t seem like a lot of time in general, in hockey that’s plenty of time to change the outcome of a game. Fortunately as the clock continued to wind down, the Bruins began to “sort things out.”
Just after Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant had pulled Luongo for the extra attacker, the puck landed on Brad Marchand’s stick and it was soon in the empty net. Marchand had been buzzing all over the ice throughout the game, protecting the puck while on his knees, sprinting back to get a shorthanded shot on goal and had been all around valuable throughout the game.
As the buzzer sounded and the tune Dirty Water blared throughout the arena, Spooner had had a two-goal night, including the game winner and the Bruins had two very important points to push themselves a little higher in the standings.