Game 4 takeaways: Controversial call mars Bruins' 3-2 loss to Panthers

Game 4 takeaways: Controversial call mars Bruins’ 3-2 loss to Panthers originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON — The Bruins are on the brink of elimination after a Game 4 loss at TD Garden.

The Original Six club jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period and led 2-1 entering the second intermission. They were 20 minutes away from a tied series. But the Panthers scored twice in the first 7:31 of the third period, including a controversial power-play goal by Sam Bennett (more on that below). Aleksander Barkov’s goal at 7:31 of the third period proved to be the difference.

The Panthers closed out a 3-2 victory to take a commanding 3-1 series lead with a chance to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Final on home ice Tuesday night in Florida.

The Panthers have now won five straight playoff games in Boston dating back to last season’s first-round series. The Bruins have won just three of their last seven home playoff games.

This loss also is the Bruins’ first of the playoffs when leading by multiple goals at any point in a game. They were 4-0-0 before Sunday.

Before we look ahead to Game 5, here are four takeaways from Bruins-Panthers Game 4.

Much better start for Bruins

The Bruins have played some awful first periods in the playoffs, including Game 3 when they tallied just three shots and trailed 1-0 entering the first intermission.

They played a much better opening 20 minutes in Game 4. The Bruins came out flying with tremendous energy and tallied 19 hits in the period. Charlie McAvoy led the way with three hits, most notably this massive one on Panthers center Sam Reinhart.

The Bruins fired five shots at Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and two of them found the back of the net.

David Pastrnak scored the Bruins’ first power-play goal of the series to give them a 1-0 lead. Brandon Carlo scored his second goal of the series at 15:12 of the period with a shot from the point that found its way through traffic.

Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman also was brilliant in the first period, making 16 saves, eight of which were high-danger chances.

Bad starts have cost the Bruins a couple times in this postseason run. That was not the case in Game 4.

Panthers dominated large stretches of the game

The Panthers tilted the ice in their favor for the majority of this matchup, and they were a little unlucky to be trailing by two goals after the first period. Expected goals were 1.61 to 0.34 in favor of the Panthers in the opening 20 minutes, per Natural Stat Trick. They had a 13-0 lead in scoring chances at 5-on-5 in the first period, and at one point in the second period Florida led 18-1 in 5-on-5 scoring chances.

Here are the final tallies for a couple key stats for the entire game.

  • Shot attempts: 79-42 Panthers (54-31 at 5-on-5)

  • Shots on net: 42-18 Panthers (28-13 at 5-on-5)

  • Scoring chances: 45-18 Panthers (26-14 at 5-on-5)

  • High-danger chances: 18-11 Panthers (11-9 Bruins at 5-on-5)

Even though the Panthers got six power plays and scored on one, the stats above show they also dominated during even strength. The Bruins, again, didn’t generate enough quality scoring chances.

The Bruins had seven high-danger chances in the second period, including three partial/full breakaways — one each for Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle — but they failed to score on all of them.

Controversial call goes against Bruins

The Panthers tied the score 2-2 at 3:41 of the period with a power-play tally. Sam Bennett — the villain from Game 3 after his questionable hit on Brad Marchand — scored the goal.

However, before batting the puck into the net, he cross-checked Bruins center Charlie Coyle from behind and knocked him into goaltender Jeremy Swayman. The B’s challenged the goal for goalie interference, but the initial call of a goal surprisingly was upheld.

If you look at Bennett’s cross-check and then read the rulebook, it’s pretty clear the goal should not have stood:

The Bruins went on the penalty kill right after as a result of losing the challenge.

Bruins waste another good Jeremy Swayman performance

Swayman was easily the Bruins’ best player in the first period. He made 16 saves and thwarted all eight of the Panthers’ high-danger scoring chances. Based on the quality of their scoring chances, the Panthers were expected to score 1.61 goals in the first period, per Natural Stat Trick.

Swayman finished with 39 saves on 42 shots (.929 save percentage), including 11 high-danger stops. The score would have been lopsided without his excellent play in net.

Swayman has started nine straight games for the first time in his career, but he doesn’t look fatigued in net. He’s moving well and unafraid to go into harm’s way to cover a puck around his crease. The 25-year-old netminder has a playoff-leading .931 save percentage, and he gives the best the best chance to win. Therefore, the Bruins should stick with him through the end of the series and live with the result.

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