BOSTON — The Boston Bruins fell to the Florida Panthers 6-3 in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference playoff series Wednesday night, the defeat the product of uncharacteristic sloppiness with the puck.
“Players didn’t make the best decisions at moments,” said Bruins coach Jim Montgomery after Florida evened the best-of-seven series at one game apiece. “I thought for the majority for the first two periods, we were doing really good things with the puck, but the turnovers we had tonight were catastrophic. Right through the middle of the ice. Not typical of the turnovers [we have].”
Throughout their historic regular season, during which Boston set NHL single-season records for wins and points, the Bruins averaged 9.13 turnovers per 60 minutes. On Wednesday night, they turned the puck over 15 times.
“I think it was just trying to make plays when plays weren’t there to be made. It was just execution in certain areas of our game with the puck that really cost us tonight,” said Montgomery, who said he would consider “changes everywhere” in his lineup for Game 3.
Forward Tyler Bertuzzi, who scored his first goal of the postseason in the loss, said he felt the team was flat from the start.
“I don’t think we broke the puck out too well. We were a little sloppy. We gotta get back to our game plan,” he said.
The Panthers had two goals from defenseman Brandon Montour and 34 saves from goalie Alex Lyon, who posted his first career playoff victory.
“You can’t get too far behind anybody. Certainly not a team like the Boston Bruins, with the season they’ve had this year,” said Florida coach Paul Maurice. “So you build a little belief in each game. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead 1:42 into the second period on a goal by forward Sam Bennett, who was playing his first game since March 20. The center finished his chance after a ferocious forecheck by his line. But Florida gave the lead away during a power play. Forward Anthony Duclair made an ill-advised pass in his own zone that was intercepted by Bruins winger Brad Marchand, who scored the short-handed goal at 12:13.
Florida retook the lead at 14:18 on a goal by Eric Staal, which interrupted the home crowd’s singalong of “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. But the Bruins’ prayers were answered moments later on a Bertuzzi goal, as a slashing penalty to Ryan Lomberg was expiring.
The Panthers took the lead again just 22 seconds into the third period, as Montour sailed a long-distance shot past goalie Linus Ullmark with the teams playing 4-on-4. They added another goal from winger Carter Verhaeghe to up their lead to 4-2 at the 7:00 mark. Montour scored on another long-distance shot to make it 5-2. Eetu Luostarinen scored an empty-netter before Taylor Hall potted a late goal for the Bruins for the final score.
The game was more physical than the Bruins’ Game 1 victory, with Panthers players such as defenseman Radko Gudas getting involved in post-whistle scrums.
“They played really hard. They played very desperate and they played a really complete game. So we need to be better,” Marchand said.
Boston was again without captain Patrice Bergeron, who is out with an injury. He skated before the Bruins’ practice on Wednesday.
Game 3 is Friday night at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Florida.