SUNRISE, Fla. — A March matchup in the Everglades doesn’t tend to have much history attached. The Bruins found a way to make some of their own Saturday night, March 23, 2019.
Powered by a five-goal second period, the Bruins clinched a playoff spot and reached the 100-point mark in consecutive seasons for the second time in 27 years in their 7-3 win over the Panthers.
“It was a nice continuation of the road trip,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We put pucks in the net, keeping them out of the net for the most part. Tonight I looked up, it was 4-1 and I think every line had scored. We got some secondary scoring.... It’s all throughout the lineup. It’s something we talked about earlier in the year we were striving for; we seemed to hit it the last month, so that’s good.”
With the playoffs now a sure thing, the Bruins are playing some of their most dominant hockey ahead of the first round. They had their 19-game point streak, and lost three straight afterwards, but have rebounded nicely with now their fourth win in a row.
The Bruins conclude their road trip tonight in Tampa Bay, another good measuring stick contest late in the year.
It was the first time in more than a year the Bruins won three straight games while scoring five or more goals in each contest. They began the road trip with 5-0 and 5-1 wins over the Islanders and Devils before heading to Florida.
Something’s clicked offensively over the course of the past few games, perfect timing for a team with seven regular-season games left before a now-for-certain postseason appearance.
“The win is huge, and getting playoffs clinched is huge for us,” said Steven Kampfer. “Now we just got to work for home ice. It was awesome.”
They picked up right where they left off in New Jersey to set momentum.
As they’ve been of late, the fourth line was the best group in the first period. They capitalized 2:23 into the contest with Noel Acciari (who fought later, coming an assist short of a Gordie Howe hat trick) finding the back of the net for the fifth time. Connor Clifton notched his first career NHL point with the secondary assist.
The scoring prowess that has broken out on the road trip continued in the second frame for the Bruins. It started 28 seconds into the period, with Patrice Bergeron stripping Boston College alum Mike Matheson behind the net and finding a wide open Brad Marchand for the 2-0 lead.
Florida brought it back within one 24 seconds later with Jayce Hawryluk finding twine.
There still was ample time for the Panthers’ defense to fall apart.
Zdeno Chara, on the day he signed a contract extension for next season, blasted in his 200th career goal with 14:55 left in the second on a drop-pass from Danton Heinen. Charlie Coyle also picked up an assist, his third point with the Bruins.
“It’s special, anytime you reach a milestone,” said Chara. “I’m not one of those guys who’s going to score another 100. I came in the league as a stay-at-home defenseman and take a lot of pride in my defensive game. It’s a pretty decent number I would say, for a guy who wasn’t supposed to play the game.”
Chara’s goal also made him the oldest player on the Bruins (42 years, five days) to score since Mark Recchi tallied as a 43-year-old in 2011.
Karson Kuhlman, on emergency recall with Sean Kuraly slated to miss the next four weeks with a broken hand, wristed his second career NHL tally. He intercepted a Mackenzie Weegar pass at center ice with 13:22 to go in the middle period and used his speed to create his own chance, putting the B’s ahead by three.
The Panthers, desperate to claw their way into the postseason picture, weren’t done quite yet. With 9:56 remaining in the second, Mike Hoffman sent a bullet past Jaroslav Halak to cut the Bruins advantage to two.
That’s as close as they came to making it a civil game.
Kampfer ripped a power play goal in with 4:12 in the frame to put the B’s up 5-2. 1:12 later, David Pastrnak gave the Bruins their sixth of the game for a 6-2 lead, their sixth game this year with six tallies.
Vincent Trocheck ripped a power play goal in 3:57 into the third, on the first Panthers power play of the night.
Bergeron iced it with the B’s seventh goal with an empty net with 26.8 seconds left in the game.