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    Sunday, June 23, 2024

    Panthers heading home looking to close out Bruins

    Boston knows a 3-1 lead in a playoff series guarantees nothing. It's a lesson the Bruins learned last year, when they had such an edge over the Florida Panthers.

    And they lost in seven.

    This year, it's Florida with a 3-1 lead on Boston — a deficit that the Bruins have never overcome in their 100-year history. The Panthers can close out the Bruins and move into the Eastern Conference Finals with a win on home ice Tuesday night, the second elimination game that Boston has faced so far in these NHL playoffs.

    “The reality is that we're going to go to Florida and we're going to play the same game and we're going to get it done,” Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman said. “I have no doubt in this group. And we have a lot of confidence and a lot of motivation to bring it back to Boston.”

    It has been a series of big swings and big hits, lots of talk on the ice and lots of talk off it as well.

    Boston rolled in Game 1. Florida rolled in a Game 2 that turned into a third-period penalty festival. The Panthers won again in Game 3 when the Bruins lost captain Brad Marchand after a hit with Florida's Sam Bennett that had Boston claiming foul. And Florida rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win Game 4, where Bennett was once again the center of controversy — his tying goal came on a play where he knocked the Bruins' Charlie Coyle into Swayman and Boston claimed interference, to no avail. Marchand couldn't play in Game 4 and is still listed as day-to-day for Game 5.

    Add it all up, and the Panthers — who will get forward Sam Reinhart back for Game 5, after he missed much of the final third of Game 4 with a nasty facial laceration courtesy of a puck shot his way by a teammate — are a game away from the NHL's final four.

    “The elimination games are usually the hardest,” Florida forward Evan Rodrigues said Monday. “That's when they're going to be pushing the most. We have to be prepared to match that intensity and, yeah, looking to get the job done.”

    Game 5 of Florida-Boston is the first of two games on Tuesday's schedule. Vancouver visits Edmonton in Game 4 of that matchup later Tuesday, after the Canucks won 4-3 on Sunday for a 2-1 series lead.

    The intensity is flowing — maybe overflowing — in that series as well, especially after Oilers star Connor McDavid was cross-checked by Vancouver defensemen Nikita Zadorov and Carson Soucy after time expired Sunday night. Zadorov, who hit McDavid in the back, was fined $5,000, the NHL said Monday. Soucy, who hit McDavid in the face, has been suspended for Game 4, the league later announced.

    “We just regroup and get ready for Game 4,” Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl said.

    The Bruins have to regroup, or else.

    Florida has outscored Boston 16-10 in the series — 15-5 in the last three games — and outshot the Bruins 146-79. Florida has 21 power-play chances to Boston's 11, six power-play goals to Boston's one and has been the team that doesn't get rattled.

    Boston has been called for 29 penalties to Florida's 20, and that got Bruins star David Pastrnak to note that perhaps his club needs a new approach with officials.

    “Maybe we have to stop yelling at them,” Pastrnak said. “Be nice to them, I guess. Smile at them.”

    The Panthers have won five consecutive playoff games in Boston, but that hardly means Florida is enthused about the chance of going there for a Game 6 in this series. The reigning East champs have three shots at a close-out and they'd obviously prefer just to get it wrapped up Tuesday.

    “We're not done yet," Panthers defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said.

    CANUCKS at OILERS, Vancouver leads 2-1, 9:30 p.m. EDT (ESPN)

    Shots on goal through three games in this series is one-sided, with Edmonton leading 94-61. And it doesn't matter.

    Canucks goalie Arturs Silovs is doing more than enough to keep the high-octane Oilers at bay, stopping 89% of the shots he's seeing. Edmonton isn't getting the same level of goaltending, with Stuart Skinner allowing a goal on one out of basically every five shots he sees (79%).

    “The kid's giving us games,” Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said of Silovs. “It's a big stage and he's not blinking. ... This is good for him. These are pressure games.”

    The pressure is on Edmonton now. A 3-1 deficit, with Vancouver set to play host to Game 5 and then a Game 7 if necessary, obviously would be far from ideal.

    “I thought we were the better team for the most part (in Game 3),” Draisaitl said. “It should have resulted in a win but that's not the way hockey works sometimes.”

    Florida Panthers' Sam Bennett, left, scores against Boston Bruins' Jeremy Swayman (1) as Bruins' Charlie Coyle (13) defends during the third period in Game 4 of an NHL second-round playoff series on Sunday in Boston. (Michael Dwyer/AP Photo)

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