BOSTON (AP) — Brad Marchand has had his share of highlight goals in his career. His latest was more of a lowlight for Florida goalie Alex Lyon.
Marchand scored his 50th career playoff goal on a relatively easy shot, David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk also scored, and the NHL-best Boston Bruins opened the playoffs by beating the Panthers 3-1 on Monday night.
“You never know, come playoff time, you never want to pass up a shot,” Marchand said. “That’s just kind of how the playoffs work. Sometimes those shots go in and sometimes they don’t.”
Linus Ullmark, a Vezina Trophy candidate who led the league in wins (40), goals-against average (1.89) and save percentage (.938), stopped 31 shots and Tyler Bertuzzi added two assists for Boston, which controlled the game even with captain Patrice Bergeron sitting out because of illness.
Matthew Tkachuk scored for the Panthers and Lyon made 26 saves — many of them splendid — but gave up Marchand’s goal on the soft shot.
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Boston.
The Bruins captured the Presidents’ Trophy, setting NHL records in points (135) and wins (65). Florida, last season’s No. 1 seed, earned the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot with a late-season push.
It’s the first playoff matchup between a No. 1 seed and the Presidents’ winner from the previous season since the award was introduced in 1985-86.
With the Bruins leading 1-0, Lyon gave up Marchand’s early in the second when the winger fired a seemingly harmless shot from the top of the left circle. Lyon bent down to catch it and it tipped off his glove, caroming into the net after hitting the inside of the right post.
Soon after, the TD Garden crowd started serenading him with chants of “Lyon! Lyon!”
“He was good. He’ll want the second one back,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said of Lyon. “I’m not measuring that as the tell of his game, we’ll measure it by the saves that he made.”
Pastrnak, a 61-goal scorer this season, was on the opposite side on the right wing from his usual spot on the power play. Bertuzzi collected the rebound of David Krejci’s shot in the slot and sent a quick backhand pass to Pastrnak, who snapped the puck into the net at 5:58 of the opening period, pushing Boston ahead 1-0.
Florida cut the lead in half when Boston defenseman Dmitry Orlov sent a blind, backhand pass directly out front, where Tkachuk collected it and flipped the puck past Ullmark at 6:34 of the second.
“I think both teams got better and have more to give, especially us,” Panthers center Eetu Luostarinen said.
DeBrusk restored the two-goal lead when he dove into a pile and knocked the puck into the net out of a scramble near the crease late in the second.
“I just saw the puck on his pad,” DeBrusk said. “I just tried to dive to get it. But I thought that if I obviously hit his pad, it was goaltender interference. I just tried to go over the top of it. … As soon I saw the replay, I knew I did what I wanted to do.”
As it did to so many opponents during its record-setting season, Boston bottled up Florida in the third.
“Our third period was our best period of the game,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said. “I thought our first five, six minutes were good. After we scored that power-play goal, maybe we had two, three shifts after that, then we kind of had a lull in our game.”
The 30-year-old Lyon, undrafted and essentially a career minor leaguer, made a pair of splendid stops after Boston took its 1-0 lead, coming across to make a left pad save on Bertuzzi’s redirect from the edge of the crease and sliding across to stop Trent Frederic’s chance. He robbed Frederic again late in the second.
Bergeron left the regular-season finale in Montreal in the first period with an upper-body injury, then missed practice Saturday and Sunday.
“We have not only Bergeron, but a couple of guys that have been under the weather,” Montgomery said after the morning skate.
NOTES: Krejci missed the last six games of the regular season with a lower-body injury. … Bruins D Derek Forbort returned to the lineup. He hadn’t played since mid-March because of a lower-body injury. D Matt Grzelcyk was a healthy scratch … Panthers C Aleksander Barkov was in the lineup after missing Sunday’s practice. … Florida G Sergei Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina winner, was the backup. He hasn’t played since March 27 because of a non-COVID illness. … Florida led the league in shots on goal per game with 36.82.
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