BOSTON (AP) — Panthers forward Troy Brouwer was the first to the puck as it rolled into the Boston zone, with three Bruins chasing helplessly behind him.
He reared back for a slap shot, freezing Tuukka Rask as the goaltender ventured a bit too far out of the crease. Then Brouwer brought his stick back down to the ice and wristed the puck past Rask, high on the stick side, for a short-handed goal that restored Florida’s two-goal lead.
“They had just cut the deficit to one goal and they were on the power play,” Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo said after Saturday’s 4-1 victory over Boston. “It was a huge momentum turn for our club to be able to get one short-handed and extend our lead back to two goals. I really never looked back after that.”
Evgenii Dadonov scored twice, one of them an empty-netter, and Luongo stopped 30 shots to help the Panthers end the Bruins’ 12-game home winning streak, its longest since 2008-09. Riley Sheahan also scored for Florida, which has already been eliminated from playoff contention.
“Unfortunately it doesn’t mean that much this time of year,” Luongo said. “But we’re all professionals in here and we play to win hockey games. It doesn’t matter what’s at stake, you always want to be on the winning side.”
Noel Acciari scored and Rask made 19 saves for Boston, which has already clinched a playoff berth and entered the day tied with Calgary for the second-best record in the league. The Bruins will most likely open the postseason at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“We’re here to win games until we get locked in,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “What’s in front of us is second place. We’d like to get there.”
The Bruins outshot the Panthers 16-8 in the first, but Sheahan and Dadonov scored about two minutes apart late in the period to give Florida a 2-0 lead heading into the break.
“They were throwing everything at the net,” Luongo said. “I was able to get in the game early, so I felt pretty good and guys rewarded me with two goals in the first and a huge short-handed goal in the second.”
It was still 2-0 late in the second, when Acciari used a backhand swipe to beat Luongo and cut the deficit to one goal. But just 1:07 later, with the Bruins on their first power play of the game, Brouwer made it 3-1.
Rask said he was slightly out of position because he had been tempted to go play the puck himself.
“That’s one of those shots you’d like to save,” he said. “Especially in a 2-1 game.”
Dadonov added an empty-netter with 2:19 left to clinch it.
With 10 minutes left in the game, the Bruins had the puck behind Luongo before it was swept off the goal line by a defender. Luongo sprawled to the ice, losing his stick in the process, but Boston wasn’t able to get off a shot while he was out of position.
NOTES: Boston hadn’t lost at home since January. ... Bruins F Chris Wagner won the team’s 7th Player Award, selected by a fan vote, for exceeding the expectations of Bruins fans during the season. Wagner, who signed as a free agent last summer, has a career-high 12 goals and six assists. He leads the Bruins and is ninth in the NHL with 245 hits. ... Florida will play its last three games of the season at home. ... Bruins F Brad Marchand was so upset at a play in the second period he slammed his stick against the boards as he returned to the bench, sending the blade flying back toward center ice.
Panthers: Host the Washington Capitals on Monday night.
Bruins: Visit the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night.
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