Jake DeBrusk snapped a 2-2 tie in the second period, Linus Ullmark made 19 saves and the Boston Bruins beat the Florida Panthers 4-2 on Tuesday night to clinch the first wild card in the Eastern Conference.
DeBrusk scored the eventual game-winner when he slammed home the rebound of a Brad Marchand shot at 4:59. Ullmark is 5-1 in his last eight appearances and has only allowed 10 goals in that span.
Erik Haula and Taylor Hall scored six seconds apart in the first period and Marchand notched his 32nd goal late in the third for Boston, which will travel to Carolina in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Bruins were swept in three games in the regular season by the Hurricanes by a 16-1 margin.
Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak each had two assists for Boston.
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“I thought it was a good test for us,” Haula said. “Florida is a high-powered offensive team and keeping them to two goals is good.”
Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky had 34 saves as Florida lost for the second straight game after rattling off 13 wins.
“They didn't give us much space, but we weren't very sharp with the puck,” Panthers coach Andrew Brunette said. “We just were kind of disconnected all over the ice. It was one of those nights. It was hard to find energy. We really didn't have the pop tonight.”
Sam Reinhart scored a power-play goal to tie the game at 2-2 for Florida with less than a second left in the first.
Goals by Haula and Hall had given Boston a 2-1 lead with just under four minutes to play in the first.
Gustav Forsling scored his 10th in the first period for the Panthers and credited Bobrovsky for keeping the game close.
“He was unbelievable. He kept us in the game," Forsling said. “I think it was a good test for us and we're going to learn a lot from it.”
Florida mustered only three shots in the third period.
“They didn’t look to me like they had their usual jump tonight for whatever reason,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I liked the way our team performed and the amount of chances we generated.”
Florida failed to clinch the trophy for the best record in hockey and needs to win one of its final two games.
MISSING THE POINT
The Bruins held Jonathan Huberdeau off the score sheet for only the second time in the last 20 games. Huberdeau entered the night second in the NHL in points.
Boston went 0-3 with the man advantage and has now gone 12 games without a power-play goal, going 0-for-36 in that span.
“We want to get the power play fixed heading into the playoffs,” Hall said. “Don’t think we have the confidence right now, but we have too many good players not to figure it out.”
NOTES: Marchand scored into an empty net, which snapped an 11-game scoreless drought. ... Florida fell to 18-4-2 against the Atlantic Division. ... Boston won its third straight and fifth in the last six. Claude Giroux has six points in three games for Florida.
Panthers: Travel to Ottawa on Thursday night.
Bruins: Host Buffalo on Thursday night.
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