The Boston Bruins breezed through the NHL's regular season, winning a record 65 games and running away with the competitive Atlantic Division. But that historically good campaign came to a shocking end on Sunday as the Florida Panthers defeated the Bruins 4-3 in overtime in Game 7 of their first-round series.
Carter Verhaeghe ended up being the hero, beating Jeremy Swayman up high with some help from a Matthew Tkachuk screen. Brandon Montour scored twice in regulation, while Sam Reinhart also found the back of the net for the visitors, who won three straight after falling into a 3-1 series deficit.
Florida's upset was the biggest in NHL history in terms of point differential, as the Panthers finished the regular season with 43 fewer points than the Bruins.
The 43-point difference between the Panthers and Bruins represents the largest upset in Stanley Cup Playoffs history for a best-of-7 series
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) May 1, 2023
Looking at how Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron embraced his teammates after the loss, this might not just be the end of a great run, it could also spell a disappointing finish to the career of an all-time great two-way forward.
With the win, the upstart Panthers set the stage for an extremely unlikely second-round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who just exorcized their first-round demons. This will be the first time the two teams battle it out in a playoff series.
Panthers complete stunning upset of history-making Bruins
Since 2012-13, only two Presidents’ Trophy-winning teams lost in the first round: these Bruins and the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning. One cannot help but notice that Sergei Bobrovsky was in net for the team who upset both of those top squads.
Apparently the worst thing that can happen to a team winning the Presidents Trophy in record setting fashion is facing Sergei Bobrovsky in the first round.
— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) April 30, 2023
As you’ve likely heard, the Bruins (135 points, so many NHL records) headed into the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs as huge favorites against the Panthers (who squeezed into the postseason with 92 points). That said, you can definitely argue the Panthers were a formidable opponent in the clothing of an eighth seed. While the Panthers are different from the team that won the 2021-22 Presidents’ Trophy, they retained a lot of those ingredients, and added a Hart Trophy-level difference-maker in Tkachuk.
After the game, Tkachuk said with a smile, “It was the biggest upset in NHL history … except to everyone in that room.”
Panthers go up early in Game 7 thanks to dangerous Montour
Last season, Montour set new career-highs with 11 goals and 37 points. In 2022-23, Montour obliterated those high-water marks, scoring 16 goals and an especially impressive 73 points.
He was a dangerous force in this series, generating six points via three different two-point performances. Montour often beguiled Linus Ullmark with dangerous shots from afar, but he opened the scoring in Game 7 by beating Swayman on a sneaky backhander off a give-and-go with Anton Lundell late in a power play.
Little give. Little go. 🤌
Brandon Montour gives the Panthers the first lead of Game 7! pic.twitter.com/ir0nIWhZbQ
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 30, 2023
Special teams a factor in second period
For all the (justified) talk about the depth the Bruins amassed during their historic regular season, a healthy Panthers team can keep sending waves at opponents — at least when it comes to its forwards. Just 1:14 into the second period, Eetu Luostarinen and Lundell set up Reinhart for his fourth goal of the series. All of a sudden, Florida fattened its lead to 2-0, and managed to do so without Tkachuk getting on the scoresheet.
Following that Reinhart goal, the unease increased, and the Bruins just generally looked “off.”
During the regular season, the Bruins trailed by multiple goals at any point at home only 7 times, fewest in the NHL. This is the 2nd time this series they've been down by multiple goals in a game at home (Game 2 lost 6-3).@ESPNStatsInfo @VinMasi
— ᴀʀᴅᴀ Öᴄᴀʟ (@Arda) April 30, 2023
After seeing some misplays from Bergeron and Krejci — two key Bruins veterans who have missed time and not always looked like themselves due to injuries — it was tempting to ask if one or both of them were too hurt to help the Bruins. Then Krejci scored an enormous power-play goal to give the Bruins life (and cut Florida’s lead to 2-1).
David Krejci absolutely CRANKED this one. 🎯
The @NHLBruins are on the board. #StanleyCup
🇺🇸: @NHL_On_TNT ➡️ https://t.co/oaJG9t2rS3 #NHLonTNT
🇨🇦: @Sportsnet ➡️ https://t.co/c0FJF23gPj pic.twitter.com/ADHBk6pF5X
— NHL (@NHL) April 30, 2023
Bruins fight back in third, but can't seal the deal
Heading into Game 7, the Bruins boasted one of the best power plays of the postseason, while the Panthers scored four goals on the man advantage but also allowed two shorthanded tallies in this series.
The Panthers were efficient on the power play, but the Bruins’ group really breathed life into the team, supplying their first two goals.
A mere 55 seconds into the third period, Bertuzzi scored in the late stages of a Bruins power play on a great outlet pass by Swayman and a Dmitry Orlov assist, tying it up 2-2.
— NHL (@NHL) May 1, 2023
About three minutes after the Bertuzzi goal, Bobrovsky belched out a huge rebound that Pastrnak hammered home to make it 3-2 as the Bruins gained their first lead of Game 7.
Pastrnak’s goal would not stand as the game-winner, as Montour continued his red-hot play with a stunning 3-3 goal with one minute remaining in regulation. With the tally, Montour became the fifth defenseman in NHL history to score at least two goals in a Game 7.