The Boston Bruins are headed to the postseason for the third straight year, and they earned the playoff berth in a big way.
In the third contest of a four-game road trip, the Bruins beat the brakes off the Florida Panthers 7-3 at BB&T Center on Saturday, thanks largely to a five-goal second period.
Noel Acciari had a goal and a fighting major in the victory, while Zdeno Chara tallied a goal and an assist. Brad Marchand, Karson Kuhlman, Steven Kampfer, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron (empty-netter) accounted for Boston’s other four scores.
Jayce Hawryluk, Mike Hoffman and Vincent Trocheck scored Florida’s goals.
Jaroslav Halak made 31 saves for the Bruins, while Panthers netminder Sam Montembeault turned away 32 shots.
The Bruins climb to 46-20-9 with the win, while the Panthers fall to 33-30-12 with the loss.
Here’s how it all went down:
ACCIARI GETS B’S GOING
It didn’t take long for the B’s to get the scoring started, with Acciari finding the back of the net with the first period’s only goal just a few minutes after puck drop.
Connor Clifton dumped a puck into the attacking zone from just beyond the blue line, and David Backes chased it to the end boards to beat out an icing call. Backes controlled the puck for a moment as he skated toward the back of the net, then zipped it into the slot, finding Acciari, who one-timed the game’s first goal at 2:23.
It was Acciari’s fifth goal of the season
The second period featured quite the display of offense, with the B’s accounting for five of the frame’s seven goals.
Mere seconds into the middle stanza, Pastrnak skated the puck into the attacking zone, but lost possession when he got laid out by Mike Matheson. The defenseman got possession and tried to skate out from behind his own net, but was stopped by Bergeron. The center gained possession just behind the goal, dashed around and backhanded a pass to Marchand, who buried the game’s second goal just 28 seconds into the period.
It didn’t take long for the Panthers to respond. Hoffman controlled the puck in the offensive end on an odd man rush, and just before skating past the net he backhanded a pass to Hawryluk, who quickly snuck Florida’s first goal past Halak 52 seconds into the period.
Chara gave the Bruins a bit more breathing room at 5:05 with his 200th career NHL goal.
Josh Brown was unable to clear the puck out of the Panthers’ defensive end, which allowed Charlie Coyle to gain possession and feed Danton Heinen with a pass. Heinen tried to hit Chris Wagner with a pass but overshot him, however Chara was able to crash in and rip a missile past Montembeault to up Boston’s advantage to 3-1.
Chara is the 22nd defenseman in NHL history to score 200-plus career goals.
Shortly thereafter, MacKenzie Weegar tried to pass out of his defensive zone, but the puck was intercepted by Kuhlman in the neutral zone. Kuhlman pivoted and darted into the offensive end, dekeing Weegar and avoiding Mark Pysyk before sniping a wrister home at 6:38.
Trailing 4-1, the Panthers did show a touch of life. From behind his net, Weegar whipped a puck along the boards, which found Hoffman in stride just beyond the red line. Kampfer’s attempt to stop him didn’t work, as Hoffman showed off his wicked shot to pull Florida within a pair.
But Kampfer got in on the action at 15:48.
From the point, John Moore hit Heinen with a pass at the top of the left circle. Heinen quickly sent the puck over to Kampfer, and the defenseman wristed a laser from the top of the right circle to further Boston’s lead to 5-2.
Before the Bruins scored their final goal of the stanza, Acciari dropped the gloves with Weegar, and the Bruins forward absolutely pummeled the defenseman. You can watch the bout here.
Halak had a hand in the Bruins’ sixth goal, retrieving a puck and directing it to Chara. The defenseman launched an outlet pass to Pastrnak, who had a step on the defense. Pastrnak made a couple moves before recording his 33rd goal of the season at 16:36.
PANTHERS GET ONE BACK
The result of the game hardly was in doubt after the second period, but the Panthers did get a goal back.
With time winding down on a power play, Aaron Ekblad backhanded a pass to Trocheck. Moore tried to block the resulting shot, but he was unsuccessful, as Trocheck earned his eighth goal of the season to cut Boston’s lead to 6-3.
With Florida’s net empty, Bergeron scored Boston’s seventh goal with 26.8 seconds left in regulation.
The Bruins will conclude their road trip with a tilt against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. Puck drop from Amalie Arena is set for 7:30 p.m.
This Bruins Wrap is presented by Plainridge Park Casino.
Thumbnail photo via Robert Mayer/USA TODAY Sports Images