Four Takeaways From Bruins Game 4 Loss to Panthers

BOSTON – The Boston Bruins now trail 3-1 in their second round series against the Florida Panthers after losing 3-2 in Game 4 on Sunday. While Games 2 and 3 were both blowout losses, Game 4 saw Boston take a 2-0 lead before Florida eventually pulled ahead.

May 12, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Florida Panthers center Eetu Luostarinen (27) and Boston Bruins center Morgan Geekie (39) battle for the puck during the second period in game four of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Here are four takeaways from Sunday night, plus comments from general manager Don Sweeney and forward Pat Maroon on Monday:

1. The Bennett Effect

It didn’t take long for Panthers forward Sam Bennett to establish himself as Boston’s public enemy No. 1 in this series. After delivering a controversial hit in Game 3 that kept Brad Marchand out for Game 4, Bennett scored the tying goal on Sunday after cross-checking Charlie Coyle into Jeremy Swayman.

Bruins coach Jim Montgomery challenged the goal and it stood, with the primary reasoning being that Bennett would have scored on the rebound regardless of Swayman’s positioning, according to the officials, despite NHL Rule 69 disallowing an attacking player forcing a defending player into his own goaltender.

“Whether we agree with it or not, we got to play through whatever,” Coyle said on Sunday. “That’s what we take pride in.”

No matter which side you stand on – for the hit on Marchand and/or the Game 4 goal – Bennett has undeniably put his mark on the series. With the Bruins facing elimination on Tuesday, they will have to keep their composure to have any chance of coming back.

2. Offensive Struggles

With as much hemming and hawing about the officiating, it can’t be overlooked that Florida was simply the better team.

In each of their past three losses, the Bruins produced 15, 17 and 18 shots on goal, respectively. While addressing the media on Monday, Sweeney mentioned that the Bruins are not a volume-shooting team but acknowledged that the execution has to be better.

“We definitely need to do a better job of recognizing some offensive situations and remaining tight defensively,” Sweeney said. “Staying above and playing behind, creating as much traffic as possible. We haven’t had a lot of rebound opportunities in this series and I think we need to generate a little bit more of that.”

The Bruins managed to score two goals on just five shots on goal in the first period on Sunday, while Swayman kept out all 15 shots that he saw. The second goal from Brandon Carlo came from him throwing the puck on net from the point, and it just happened to get by Bobrovsky.

Yet when Florida came back, the Bruins ended the night with just two shots on goal in the third period. Volume-shooting team or not, more has to come in those situations.

3. Losing Special Teams Battle

This one goes hand-in-hand with the last point, only this is affecting both sides of the ice for Boston.

David Pastrnak’s first-period goal on Sunday was Boston’s first power-play goal of the series. They failed to capitalize on two power-play opportunities in the final 6:22 while trailing 3-2, dropping them down to 1-for-11 (9.1%) in the series.

Meanwhile, Bennett’s tying goal came in the final seconds of a Florida power play, putting their series total at 6-for-21 (28.6%). The Panthers have had six opportunities on the man advantage in each of the past three games and continue to take advantage.

The Bruins committed four penalties in the third period, including one from the failed challenge. Two of them came after Aleksander Barkov scored to take the 3-2 lead at 7:31 of the third. It’s one thing to play with emotion, but once that gets in the way of the overall goal – in this case, trying to tie the game back up – it becomes something bigger.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen four penalties in the third period,” Pastrnak said. “That’s eight minutes, a half of a period, that you spend on the kill. … It’s tough, you know, we have to stay out of the box and play 5-on-5.”

When you’re giving teams that many chances, and failing to convert on your own, it’s no surprise that the Bruins are trailing 3-1.

4. Swayman Back on Track

While the losses in Game 2 and 3 did not fall solely on Swayman’s shoulders, the netminder still allowed nine goals across both games. It was a far cry from his other-worldly performance in the first round against Toronto.

Despite losing again in Game 4, Swayman bounced back for another strong showing. His 39 saves kept Boston in position to at least try to force overtime. The Bruins have long touted goaltending as their strength this season, but that lay in their overall tandem of Swayman and Linus Ullmark

As for what’s in front of him, it’s clear more needs to be done. Maroon didn’t shy away from that on Monday.

“We gotta win a f***ing hockey game,” Maroon said. “That’s what it comes down to. Unfortunately, what happened, we got to turn the page. We got to find a way.

“We can’t sit there and make excuses and point the finger on who’s to blame. It’s 25 guys in the locker room right now, and we got to figure it out.”

We’ll see if they figure it out in Sunrise, Florida on Tuesday.

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