The Bruins' strategy was simple. They knew the Florida Panthers were playing their second game in as many nights. They knew the Panthers didn't arrive in town until 3:30 a.m. yesterday, and they knew they'd have an opportunity to jump on a tired team.
Right idea, wrong execution.
Instead of skating their way to success in the first period, they skated their way to the penalty box and wound up losing to Florida, 2-1, at the FleetCenter last night.
Both of the Panthers' goals came during opening-period power plays. In the final 40 minutes, the Bruins poured 32 shots on goalie Roberto Luongo, but their only strike came by rookie center Patrice Bergeron with 1:16 left in regulation and goalie Andrew Raycroft pulled for an extra attacker.
But bad starts have a way of yielding bad results.
"When you spend six of the first 12 minutes in the penalty box, it's tough to get everybody in the hockey game," said coach Mike Sullivan. "Two of the three penalties we took in the offensive zone when we had control of the puck and we had momentum, which makes it tough."
Florida had seven power plays in the contest compared with two for Boston and Sullivan clearly wasn't happy with the job done by referees Stephane Auger and Paul Devorski.
"I don't know what's a penalty anymore, to be honest with you," said Sullivan. "I don't know what's a penalty and what isn't."
The Panthers took the lead at the four-minute mark on right wing Juraj Kolnik's sixth goal of the year.
Bruin Mike Knuble was whistled off for cross-checking at 2:28. Raycroft was able to weather the initial storm, but the Panthers managed to cash in. From the point, Lukas Krajicek fed Kolnik, who backhanded a shot between Raycroft's pads.
Not long after the Bruins killed off Glen Murray's hooking penalty, Bergeron was called for obstruction/hooking at 10:22. Florida captain Olli Jokinen got the puck in the right circle and dished it to Valeri Bure in the left. Bure's fluttering one-timer beat Raycroft and gave the visitors a 2-0 lead.
"We didn't start the way we should've," said Bruins defenseman Nick Boynton. "We should've been all over them and buried them in the first period and we didn't."
The Bruins had power-play opportunities before the first period ended. With Jokinen off for hooking at 17:30, Luongo gloved Murray's point-blank bid.
At 17:59, Mathieu Biron (hooking) joined Jokinen in the box, giving the Bruins a five-on-three advantage for 1:31. Even though penalty killer Stephen Weiss was without his stick for a stretch, the Bruins couldn't execute. The Panthers denied them shooting lanes, blocked pucks, and frustrated the Boston attack.
"They were doing a pretty good job of defending, but we hit the post twice," said Sullivan. "The only thing, I think, we could've done a better job at was getting somebody in front of the goaltender. I thought he saw the puck a little too much."
The Bruins pressured the Panthers in the second period, outshooting them, 13-10, but Luongo held them at bay. In the third, the Panthers were content to trap and ice the puck in an effort to kill off the clock.
The Bruins, who played their best in the third period, had a chance to get back in it when P.J. Axelsson was awarded a penalty shot with 6:32 remaining in regulation after he was hooked down by Krajicek. But Axelsson's forehand bid was blocked by Luongo's big body.
Bergeron converted his rebound with 1:16 remaining but was the only shot that would beat Luongo.
"We played hard," said center Brian Rolston. "I thought we dominated the game."
But in the end, Luongo (43 saves) dominated them.