Florida Panthers break Boston Bruins record

These Boston Bruins aren’t used to losing streaks.

They tore through the NHL during the regular season, winning a single-season record 65 games; winning the Presidents’ Trophy with a league-high 135 points, 22 points ahead of all other teams; and ahead of their opponents by 128 goals.

But after all those wins, a three-game losing streak, just their second of the season, came at an inopportune time. The Florida Panthers beat the Bruins, 4-3, in overtime in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series Sunday night in Boston to complete a rare comeback from a 3-1 series deficit. And they did it against some of the toughest opponents in the league’s 106-year history: the Bruins had 43 more points than the Panthers in the regular season.

Boston had been so dominant that on Saturday night, after Toronto beat Tampa Bay to win a playoff series for the first time since 2004, some Maple Leafs fans gathered outside the team’s arena and chanted, “We want Florida.

They got their wish.

Tampa Bay’s 2020 championship team member Carter Verhaeghe won the series with a left-handed shot from the right face-off spot through a screen by Matthew Tkachuk.

The Panthers took a 2-0 lead early in the second period, prompting a handful of boos from an agitated Boston crowd. The Bruins scored three straight goals and looked set to advance, but defenseman Brandon Montour forced overtime by scoring his second goal of the game with less than a minute to go, and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was sent to the bench for an additional attacker.

In losing in the first round, the Bruins suffered the same fate as the 2018-19 Lightning, who shared the previous single-season winning record with the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings. This Tampa Bay team crashed out in a four-game sweep against Columbus, prompting an apology from fans on social media. Of the four teams to win at least 60 games in a season, only one, the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens, won the Stanley Cup.

This year’s Bruins, under first-year coach Jim Montgomery, also had talent on their roster. Five players had at least 20 goals and five had at least 40 assists. David Pastrnak, the star winger who signed an eight-year contract extension last month, led both categories with career highs of 61 goals and 52 assists.

In goal, Linus Ullmark’s league-leading save percentage and goals-against-average had positioned him as a favorite to win the Vezina Trophy. And when Ullmark wasn’t between the pipes, Jeremy Swayman was also posting stellar numbers.

This year, Boston became the fastest team to reach 50 wins. In the end, however, TD Garden fans were heading for the exits after the Bruins became the 28th NHL team to lose a playoff series after leading 3-1.

Boston will now enter an offseason with important questions to answer. The team doesn’t have a lot of salary cap space, and its unrestricted free agents include two members of its most recent championship team – Patrice Bergeron, the 37-year-old captain and top defensive tackle; and David Krejci, who had a goal and two assists on Sunday. The team had rallied to these veterans to try to offer them one more title.

The Bruins also don’t have high-end draft picks available. They don’t have a first- or second-round pick this year and, due to a past trade, they may not have a 2024 draft pick until the fourth round.

The Panthers had been largely beaten in Game 4 and were one goal in overtime from the end of their season in the next game. Instead, they are unlikely to continue playing.

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