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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Panthers head to Boston for Game 3 as second-round series heats up

    Florida Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk, left, and Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman scuffle during the second period of Game 1 of the second-round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday in Sunrise, Fla. (Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo)

    Fort Lauderdale — The Florida Panthers know what awaits them on Friday night. A fired-up crowd in Boston, an angry bunch of Bruins, probably a good amount of chirping and a tension the likes of which can only be created during the NHL playoffs.

    Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk can't wait.

    “The best time of year,” Tkachuk said. “Everybody knows that.”

    Game 3 of a knotted-up Eastern Conference second-round series between the Panthers and Bruins is Friday in Boston, the teams splitting the first two games in Florida — and tensions ran hot in Game 2. Tkachuk and Bruins star David Pastrnak fought in the third period, a rarity for offensive stars. It was just the third fighting penalty of the season for Tkachuk, and Pastrnak's first since March 2018.

    Florida won 6-1 and the only people busier than the ones logging the goals were the ones logging the penalty minutes, with 12 misconducts getting handed out in the third period alone.

    “I don't think there's going to be any spillover to the next game,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said. “They're two teams that are rivals. We played each other last year, playing each other this year, it's going to be a series. And what I'm really proud of, I'm proud of Pasta. There's so many guys out there pushing after a whistle when the linesmen are there. Pasta and Tkachuk, they just went out there and fought. That's what you like. You like your hockey players to be competitors.”

    Also Friday, Game 2 will happen in Vancouver between the Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers. Vancouver erased a three-goal deficit to win 5-4 in Game 1 on Wednesday night.

    “It’s a resilient group,” Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said. “Sometimes we’re not pretty. Sometimes things happen. But I just feel like it’s a real close group."

    The Panthers and Bruins — teams that met in a seven-game series in Round 1 last year, won by Florida in an upset — are pretty close groups as well. And Wednesday's events probably brought the respective rooms even closer.

    From Florida's perspective, there were things to like: a five-goal win, holding Boston to 15 shots on goal, getting its first power-play score of the season against the Bruins, standing tall when things got physical late and above all else tying up the series.

    From Boston's perspective, there was much to celebrate as well from its road trip: the Bruins got home-ice advantage by taking Game 1, still have beaten Florida in five of six meetings this season and know the crowd will be raucous.

    “This is what playoffs are about,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “This is where rivalries are built and obviously with last year, it kind of started there and they play a physical game and we’re able to do that as well. ... It's going to be a physical series. We know that. That’s what fans love. It’s exciting.”

    Florida may get forward Sam Bennett back; he hasn't played yet in the series because of an upper-body injury sustained in Round 1 against Tampa Bay. Bennett will go through morning skate on Friday before the Panthers make a final decision.

    The Bruins will have a choice in net, either going back to Jeremy Swayman for an eighth consecutive start or opening with Linus Ullmark. He relieved Swayman in the third period on Wednesday once the Bruins got down 4-1.

    “Friday night in Boston, playoffs, it’s going to be a lot of energy in the rink,” Tkachuk said. "Two teams that are very familiar with each other and two teams that really want to win. So, this is a really good series right now.”

    EDMONTON at VANCOUVER, Canucks lead 1-0, 10 p.m., TNT

    Rick Tocchet’s Vancouver Canucks are apparently never out of a game. After coming back from down two goals with under three minutes left to win in overtime last series against Nashville, they erased an even bigger deficit down 4-1 in the second-round opener before beating the Oilers in regulation.

    “This is when you need a close group, these situations,” said Tocchet, a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.

    And sometimes you just need a save, which the Oilers could have used from Stuart Skinner on Conor Garland’s shot that became the Game 1 winner Wednesday night.

    “There’s going to be games where they’re not his ‘A’ game, and he will be the first to admit today wasn’t his ‘A’ game,” coach Kris Knoblauch said. “But we’d never doubt him with how he plays and more importantly how he responds after a game that wasn’t his best. Stu has played very well for us throughout this time, and he’ll play really well for us in the games going forward.”

    Boston Bruins coach Jim Montgomery watches during the third period of Game 2 against the Florida Panthers on Wednesday in Sunrise, Fla. (Lynne Sladky/AP Photo)

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