Bruins extend season with ‘best game of the series’


Without Brad Marchand for the second straight game, the Bruins persevered to bring home a 2-1 Game 5 win.

Boston Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm (27) and Florida Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour (62) battle for control of the puck during third period action in game five of the Eastern Conference NHL second round Playoff game. (Matthew J Lee/Globe Staff)

With their season on the line, the Boston Bruins played the part of the more desperate team in Game 5 against the Florida Panthers.

But it wasn’t the cleanest outing by any means.

Amid another slew of head-scratching calls, the Bruins encountered another rough night establishing puck possession and looked lost on the power play. They nearly had a pair of costly self-inflicting moments, highlighted by Johnny Beecher’s near-disastrous turnover in the second period, and committed another too-many-men infraction in the third.

Without Brad Marchand for the second straight game, the Bruins persevered.

Boston received numerous high-danger chances on Sergei Bobrovsky, including multiple breakaway attempts from Pavel Zacha, Jake DeBrusk, Trent Frederic and David Pastrnak. Their penalty kill returned to form with a perfect 4-for-4 outing. Jeremy Swayman continued his stellar postseason with multiple Grade-A stops.

The Bruins earned their stripes in Game 5, beginning with Morgan Geekie’s nifty tally 4:49 in.

Jim Montgomery’s club countered Florida’s second-period push with a struggling Charlie McAvoy — following another challenge for goaltender’s interference — notching the go-ahead tally just 4:02 after Sam Reinhart’s equalizer.

The Bruins and Panthers traded chances in the third period, with Swayman putting the final touches on the 2-1 victory with a season-saving stop on Reinhart in the closing seconds.

“This was our best game of the series,” Montgomery told reporters.

Here’s what we learned from a Game 5 grinder in Sunrise.

The Bruins exhaled following the latest goalie interference review.

For a moment, the Hub feared a worst-case scenario.

On the heels of the newest Boston villain, Sam Bennett, shoving Charlie Coyle into Swayman en route to his tying marker in Game 4, the Bruins found themselves front and center again in another goalie interference review.

Paul Maurice issued his challenge after watching Bobrovsky lose his stick before McAvoy’s tally. Perhaps he felt Danton Heinen’s skate made enough contact with Bobrovsky amid a net-front battle with Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Without much concrete evidence to overturn, the goal stood. And the Bruins, after taking flak for rather tepid comments about the league’s officiating and decision-making, got to exhale.

“Oh, he was freaking out,” Pastrnak joked about McAvoy’s reaction to the media.

“I just kept thinking it was a fair play, you know,” McAvoy added. “It was one-on-one, and [Bobrovsky] had a chance. Just happy that that one went our way. You never know. You just never know [with] these things and we needed that one,”

Indeed, the Bruins got a needed break from one of their top performers, who himself could’ve used a bounce-back performance.

McAvoy snaps out of his rut.

The perception surrounding McAvoy entering Game 5 focused on his status as one of the goats of this second-round series — and not of the Tom Brady variety.

After all, McAvoy’s only notable highlight came early in Game 4 when he landed a heavy open-ice hit on Reinhart. He also came into Tuesday with a grand total of zero shots on net through the first four games.

After struggling on both ends of the ice, McAvoy looked more like a well-rounded blue-liner in Game 5. The seventh-year blue-liner notched two points, six shots on net, and more than held his own defensively to help the Bruins secure Tuesday’s victory.

“Game 4, Charlie asserted himself really well. Maybe it wasn’t as clean as with the puck as we usually see him, but he had that big hit on Reinhart,” Montgomery said of McAvoy. “He’s extremely competitive. He’s kind of quiet. Like, he doesn’t say much, but you could see him talking a lot tonight on the bench. And his play was instrumental in our victory, and I think the goal for him is huge.”

Swayman continues to embrace the postseason moments.

Without Swayman, a transitional Bruins club likely would’ve been watching the rest of the playoffs from home. Instead, they still have a fighter’s chance to pull off an unlikely upset.

Despite another sloppy performance from their struggling power play, the Bruins provided Swayman enough offensive support in Game 5. Their net-front coverage at 5v5 and on the penalty kill improved from the last three games as they held the Panthers to eight high-danger scoring chances.

Swayman faced a lighter workload in the first, but his activity increased in the final 40. The Bruins hardly went into prevent mode in the second and third frames, but they needed one more quality stop from Swayman in the closing seconds on Reinhart to extend their season.

“I want to stay sharp the whole game from the drop of the puck to the last whistle. And if I’m not as sharp as I am in the third period, we’re not going to make it through the third period in a good position. So for me, it’s just exactly what you said, staying in the moment… save by save, play by play. And when I do that, it just dials me in to live in the moment and do whatever I need to do to stop the puck.”

Marchand’s teammates wanted to give him a shot at returning.

With their season on the line, a likely feeling of helplessness — at least from an on-ice standpoint — seemed to have settled in for Marchand after missing his second straight game. Instead of staying home, however, Marchand came on the trip and touched the ice for Boston’s morning skate.

Even without logging a shift, Marchand remained supportive in his leadership role.

The first-year captain remained in the Amerant Bank Arena visiting locker room during warmups, fist-pumping his teammates as they came down the tunnel.

As he still nursed an upper-body injury sustained from Bennett’s sucker punch, the Bruins kept Marchand’s jersey above his stall in a symbolic gesture.

“His jersey is still hanging right there, and it will never come down because he’s gonna be back in very soon,” Swayman said of Marchand. “It just explains what kind of human being he is, what kind of leader he is to our group. Even when he’s not playing, he’s here warming up with us to do whatever he needs to do to be around just as if he were playing.”

Marchand’s teammates wanted to give him a chance to return. He’ll still have a few hurdles to clear before getting the green light for a potential Game 6 appearance. But as he showed in the moments leading up to Game 5, they’ll still have a reliable voice to lean on as they enter their fifth series-ending scenario on Friday.

“We know what he means to this group, and you know, we didn’t say die,” McAvoy added. “We wanted to see this thing go back to Boston and give him a chance to get right and hopefully he’ll be back.”

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