Stanley Cup: Panthers Shock Bruins in Round One


The Florida Panthers, who finished 17th overall in the NHL, overturned the Boston Bruins’ 3-1 series lead to win round one of the playoffs. Photo: Hendrik Seis via Wikimedia Commons.

The Florida Panthers shocked NHL fans with their first round win against the Boston Bruins, who were favored to win the Stanley Cup.

The Bruins finished the 2022-23 regular season with a historic 65-12-5 record and first place in the Atlantic Division as well as the whole NHL with 135 points. They set the league record for most wins and points in a single season, making their season one of the most impressive in NHL history.

The Panthers finished the regular season with a 42-32-8 record and as fourth place in the Atlantic Division, as well as 17th out of 32 teams in the NHL. They finished their regular season with just 92 points, 43 points behind the Bruins, and just barely grasped a playoff spot as a wild card.

Prior to the series, many predicted that the Bruins would be in for an easy first round and sweep the Panthers with a 4-0 series win.  However, the series would turn out to be more eventful than expected.

In Game 1 on April 17, the Bruins went up 1-0 in the fifth minute of the first period when David Pastranak scored with an assist from Tyler Bertuzzi. In the second period, the Bruins went up 2-0 in the third minute after a goal by Brad Marchand, assisted by Charlie McAvoy, but Panthers right winger, Mathew Tkachuk, quickly responded with an unassisted goal, making the score 2-1. Jake DeBrusk, a Bruins right winger, then scored in the 17th minute, assisted by Tyler Bertuzzi. After a scoreless third period, the game ended at 3-1. Bruins goalie Linus Ullmark earned first star of the game, totalling 31 saves. This first game seemed to confirm many people’s expectations that the first round would be an easy one for the Bruins.

However, two days later, the Panthers won 6-3 on the Bruins’ ice, tying the series at 1-1. After two more games at Florida Live Arena, the Bruins managed to win two more games, bringing the count to 3-1, a difficult deficit to overcome.

The Panthers were able to extend the series in Game 5, pulling out a 4-3 overtime win at TD Garden. Anthony Duclair of the Panthers opened the scoring in the eighth minute, and the Bruins were never able to gain the lead. During the sixth minute of overtime, Panther’s right winger Matthew Tkachuk scored the game winning goal, assisted by winger Carter Verhaeghe. When interviewed after Game 5, defenseman Charlie McAvoy described their win in game 4 as the hardest to get and said, “You can’t really afford to start slow so we got to revisit our start and what makes us a good team.”

After Game 5, the Panthers went on to win game 6 as well, with a final score of 5-7. This meant that the Bruins had lost a 3-1 series lead.

Going into Game 7, Bruins’ left wing Taylor Hall said, “[w]e know what’s on the line. We know… guys that could be their last game as a Bruin.” Given the uncertainty about the future of many Bruins, including Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Bertuzzi, and David Krejčí, this playoff run was particularly important for Boston.

Game 7 was a back-and-forth affair, as the Panthers took a 2-0 lead, but the Bruins came back and scored three goals, making the score 3-2. With just one minute left in regulation remaining, Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour scored, forcing overtime. In the eighth minute of overtime, Verhaeghe scored for the Panthers off a Sam Bennet assist, moving his team into the next round.

Following their Game 7 loss, Bruins winger Brad Marchand expressed his disappointment in their results, saying, “at the end of the day, we play in the regular season to get a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to play for a cup and that’s the goal every year…not to, you know, dominate the regular season…it fell short of our goal.”

While the Panthers victory against the heavily-favored Bruins shocked most, the Bruins and Panthers had split the regular season series, so the matchup was not as uneven as many had anticipated. The Panthers were one of the few teams to beat the Bruins twice this season.

In the second round, the Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in a decisive 4-1 series victory. The Panthers continue their unlikely bid in the Stanley Cup against the Carolina Hurricanes. On May 18, the Panthers won 3-2, and a day later, they won 2-1.