SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers have been hot on the power play lately, and it culminated in an eruption Wednesday night.
It also came at the perfect time.
After opening the season with the second-worst power play in the league, Florida has cruised to a 32 percent drop since Nov. 5 — good for fourth-best in the league.
Still, there was another level the Panthers could hit.
While they led the league in shots by a wide margin, they were sorely lacking in weak scoring chances from the perimeter.
But it all came together on Wednesday as Florida put together three power-play goals to beat the top-seeded Boston Bruins 5-2 at a heated FLA Live Arena.
Florida’s explosion on the power play came against the NHL’s second-best penalty kill.
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“We’ve scored all our power play goals from the front of the net and that’s where all the goals come from,” Florida captain Sasha Barkov said.
“We need more bodies there and we needed to find a way to score there. We had a good practice yesterday where we talked a lot about it and we delivered.”
The Panthers got a chance to tie the game 1:20 into the game when Charlie Coyle tripped Gus Forsling and they quickly cashed in.
Sam Reinhart and Matthew Tkachuk created a hole in the Bruins box setup with some gift-and-go action that Reinhart finished off a Tkachuk feed from the front of the net just 29 seconds later.
Boston held the Panthers to the perimeter on their next crack at the power play through an extended 5-on-3 — a problem Florida faced many times earlier in the year.
Florida rallied to score two power-play goals late in the period on deflected point shots, capped by Tkachuk’s tip-in on Barkov’s shot that seemed to put the dagger in the Bruins with 14 seconds left.
“We did the offensive things we wanted to do on the power play,” Maurice said.
“We weren’t afraid to shoot the puck and we made sure we had the net. There are a lot of good videos about Matthew Tkachuk and he does it on purpose. He’s got an incredible set of hands to hold the goalie tight while being in the right position and having the confidence to put the puck there.”
The Panthers also got into penalty trouble several times during the game.
They found themselves on a 5-on-3 stretch late in the first after Anton Lundell hit a double-minor for the high bar.
Boston took advantage after Charlie McAvoy fired a loose puck that came off a funky rebound off a Jake DeBrusk pass past Spencer Knight with 2:46 left.
Knight recovered to stop all 11 shots he faced in the third, and then faced a similar 5-on-3 situation after another double-double low on a penalty killer — this time Eetu Luostarinen.
The Bruins quickly moved the puck away from the ensuing draw, and Knight could only watch as Pastrnak scored his 13th goal of the year off of a blistering slap shot.
The Florida penalty didn’t break, going 4-for-4 off two extended 5-on-3 chances for a 4-for-6 total.
“It was an important piece because we got the goal and didn’t get rattled,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
“We still had three minutes left on both and the kill on the first 5-on-3 had a bad break on the first and they have a really strong power play there so we were able to close out the rest. their power play downfield was important.”
Knight embodied a lot of that, stopping 37 of the 39 shots he faced overall.
“All good, young goalkeepers have short memories because they believe in their ability to be better,” Maurice said.
“He is not worried about his place in the game. They know they’re going to be great goaltenders and Spencer knows that, so he doesn’t let go, he builds.”
Aaron Ekblad finished the game with his 100th career goal – an empty netter at 2:10.
“I’m really glad it came as a win so you can smile about it,” he said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever scored a goal into an empty net, so it’s funny that it happened now.
COLBY’S THREE STAR GAMES
1. Sasha Barkov, Florida (goal, two assists)
2. Spencer Knight, Florida (35 saves, win)
3. Aaron Ekblad, Florida (100th NHL goal, two assists)
PANTHERS ON BOARD
HOLY. LOUIS BLUES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m
- Where: FLA Live Arena, sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Stream Panthers Radio: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Split 1-1
- Regular Season All-Time Series: St. Louis is 24-12-1, 3 ties