There was almost a polite resignation that dispersed through the crowd at TD Garden when Jonathan Huberdeau whipped the puck past Tuukka Rask with 9:05 remaining in the third period — putting the Panthers back in front, 3-2.
Every run has its end, and if there was a night for Boston to fall victim to a trap game — this was going to be it.
Already in the middle of a stretch that has seen Boston log 10 games over 21 days, the Bruins’ 17-game point streak was already teetering before the puck dropped on Thursday against Florida.
The matchup stood as the 11th straight game in which Boston has taken to the ice without its top goal scorer in David Pastrnak — still on the mend from thumb surgery — but the situation was much more dire than just a vacancy on the top line.
A heavy hit levied against Marcus Johansson during Tuesday’s win over Carolina knocked Boston’s latest acquisition out of the lineup for at least a week due to a lung contusion, while Jake DeBrusk — the spark plug that had lit the lamp eight times in his last 10 outings — was a late scratch due to a nagging lower-body injury.
Forced to roll out a top-six group with Providence call-ups in Peter Cehlarik and Karson Kuhlman, the writing was on the wall for a letdown on home ice — with that 3-2 final set to hand Boston its first loss in regulation since all the way back on Jan. 19.
“It definitely wasn’t our best night,” Brad Marchand acknowledged. “You could feel that — you know when we play well and when we’re not.”
A tough pill to swallow, for sure, especially against a Panthers club currently stuck in a 0-1-4 rut. But in a game as fickle as hockey, sometimes the puck just doesn’t fall in your favor. Or, when the opportunity does present itself, sometimes the difference between points on the board and a sullen locker room lies in just letting one fly.
“The way that we’ve been playing is always finding ways and it’s not always going to be perfect,” Patrice Bergeron said. “It’s not always going to be your best game, but you’re one shot away from being back in the game.”
Alright, it took a pair of shots from the Bruins on Thursday night, but the result still stands.
Still on the wrong side of a one-goal game as the seconds ticked off the scoreboard, the Bruins accomplished a feat that’s only been achieved once before in franchise history — winning a contest in regulation after notching the equalizer in the final minute of play, as Matt Grzelcyk and Bergeron both lit the lamp just 30 seconds apart to hand the club a stunning 4-3 win.
Patrice Bergeron wins it with 7 seconds left.
Bruins beat the Panthers, 4-3, and extend their point streak to 18 games.
What a run — and what a team this is turning out to be. pic.twitter.com/hD9iFtpfSz
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 8, 2019
“What an exciting game,” Charlie McAvoy said. “Morally, that feels great for us. Just so exciting, I feel like I’m not really off that high right now.”
The miraculous rally — giving Boston points in 18 straight outings and wins in five consecutive games — was a feat that has only been realized nine other times in the NHL’s 101-year history.
And yet, should we really be surprised with the result?
After all, during this 18-game point streak, this never-say-die Bruins club has: