‘Nervous’ Bruins do enough, top Panthers to take series lead
BOSTON — The Boston Bruins finished the NHL regular season with loads of confidence, having set new records for wins and points in the standings. But in Game 1 of their series against the Florida Panthers on Monday night, the Bruins admitted they had opening night playoff jitters in a 3-1 victory.
“Definitely. I think everyone was nervous. I was nervous. I’m sure a lot of guys were. This is what we’ve been building for all year,” said winger Brad Marchand, who had a goal in the win. “It’s only normal for guys to feel that way. But it’s nervous excitement too. It’s a chance for us to build on what we’ve done all year and trust the process.”
Coach Jim Montgomery liked the team’s first six minutes against Florida, but then “the intensity of the playoffs surprised us a little bit” after that.
“I think we had a little bit of nerves,” he said.
Boston took a 1-0 lead on David Pastrnak‘s power-play goal at 5:58 of the first period. It remained that way until Marchand made it 2-0 at 3:41 of the second period. But Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk answered that goal just under three minutes later, cutting the lead to 2-1.
“They’re a good team. We knew they were going to push hard than they did. When we started turning too many pucks over in the neutral zone and the top of the circles in the second period, we kind of got away from our game,” Marchand said.
Winger Jake DeBrusk calmed things down when he scored an unusual goal at 17:32 of the second period, poking a loose puck off goalie Alex Lyon‘s pad and into the net.
“I just saw the puck on his pad. I just tried to dive to get it, but I thought that if I hit his pad it would be goaltender interference, so I tried to get over top of it,” he said.
Goaltender Linus Ullmark, who was a game-time decision due to illness and injury, made the lead stand up with 31 saves.
“That was nice. You know, we just got to get 15 more,” Ullmark said.
Montgomery wants to see a better effort in front of his goalie.
“When we look at our 5-on-5 game, we’re not happy with our process. The result comes from the fact that we had some players play really well, especially our goaltender,” he said.
The Bruins were without captain Patrice Bergeron, who was a game-time decision but didn’t come out for warmups. Whether his absence was due to an illness going through the Bruins’ dressing room or a lingering injury, he couldn’t play in Game 1 — but his presence was felt.
“He was around all day and kind of talked to us before the game. He’s such a presence. You can tell that he can’t wait to get out there,” DeBrusk said. “It gives you a boost seeing him around. We want to do it for him. That was a main goal at the start of the year. We got off on the right foot tonight. But it’s really early.”
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Boston.