Bruins pay for taking too many penalties, fall to the Panthers, 5-2

We may have had to wait until Thanksgiving to learn this about the Bruins but we finally have evidence. They are indeed capable of having an off night.

The B’s usually stellar penalty kill let them down on Wednesday in Sunrise as the Florida Panthers scored three power-play goals and rode a strong performance from former Boston College goalie Spencer Knight to a 5-2 win. The B’s managed 39 shots on net but could only beat him with a pair of 5-on-3 goals while the Panthers broke the game open with three second-period goals.

The loss snapped the B’s winning streak at seven and dropped their NHL-leading record to 17-3. The New Jersey Devils, who had been hot on their heels, had their 13-game win streak ended by the Toronto Maple Leafs in Newark, dropping them to 16-4.

Coach Jim Montgomery had as much of a problem with the number of penalties (seven) that his team took as with how it defended them.

“It’s a been a little bit of a concern all year long, but our penalty kill’s been so dynamite that it’s masked it. Lately we’re taking too many and we’re using too many players and we’ve just got to be better,” said Montgomery.

The B’s entered the third period down 4-1 but they got a break that could have allowed them to get back in the game. With the Panthers already with a man in the box, Eetu Luostarinen took a chunk out of Charlie McAvoy’s nose with a high stick, earning a double minor.

On the two-man advantage, David Pastrnak blasted his 13th goal of the season past Knight. But Brad Marchand’s interference penalty wiped out the second Luostarinen penalty. On the ensuing 4-on-4, Montgomery took the unusual step of pulling goalie Jeremy Swayman briefly for an extra skater with over 11 minutes to go in the game but that out-of-the-box move did not do much.

The B’s had a Charlie Coyle goal rightly waved off with 3:54 left because of a Nick Foligno hand pass before the Panthers finally ended it with an Aaron Ekblad empty-netter with 2:10 remaining.

For the second time in as many games, the B’s coughed up the first goal, this time on the power play. Brandon Carlo’s clear-out attempt hit Marchand in the skates and toppled the wing, setting off an outmanned situation in which Sam Reinhart played catch with Matthew Tkachuk, Reinhart taking Tkachuk’s return pass at the side of the net to beat Swayman, giving the Panthers a 1-0 lead just 1:49 into the game.

But unlike the first period in Tampa, the B’s held the advantage in play in the opening 20 minutes, outshooting the Panthers, 18-8. But Knight, who has had a slow start this season, was on his game, making several key stops, including one on Craig Smith all alone at the left side of the net.

There was little Knight could do on McAvoy’s equalizer, however. With Ryan Lomberg already in the box for slashing, Anton Lundell bloodied Pastrnak with a high-stick, taking a double minor and giving the B’s a 5-on-3. On the two-man advantage, Jake DeBrusk won a puck behind net and his pass attempt to the right point deflected off a Panther leg into the high slot. McAvoy, who was briefly shaken up earlier in the period and went to the room, walked into a slapper and beat Knight over the blocker with an absolute laser.

The B’s could not take advantage on the lengthy remainder of the 5-on-4 power play, thanks in part to Knight, who stopped Pastrnak on a breakaway at the start of the second. Knight would also stop Coyle on a clean break-in later in the period.

Then the Panthers regained the lead at 4:41 off some soft defense. Jakub Zboril went back to retrieve a puck and got there in time to win the puck. But Reinhart closed and simply took it away from him, passing to Nick Cousins, who turn fed a wide open Lundell for the go-ahead goal.

The B’s PK did effectively kill off a 5-on-3 for 1:21, but they did not get the usual bump in momentum from the big kill, as the Panthers started to tighten up defensively in their own zone.

When the B’s were tagged with their third penalty of the period – a questionable holding call on Connor Clifton – the Panthers did get their two-goal at 15:31 when Sasha Barkov deflected home a Brandon Montour shot past Swayman.

Then came the backbreaker. After Hampus Lindholm had his shot blocked by Radko Gudas, Lindholm took out his frustration by crosschecking Gudas and got tagged for it. On the advantage, Tkachuk tipped a Barkov pass by Swayman with 14 seconds left in the period to take a commanding 4-1 lead.

“I don’t think it was anything special they were doing. I think it was us running out of position a little bit and not being responsible for our certain zones, ” said Carlo of the PK. “It was unfortunate a couple of those ended up in the back of the net. But we need to limit those opportunities for them to get on the power play as well.”

The B’s won’t have to wait long to get their good vibes back. After the holiday, they’ll get back in action for the annual Black Friday matinee against the Carolina Hurricanes, when they have a chance to set a record for most consecutive home wins to start a season. A win would also prevent the B’s first losing streak of the season.