BOSTON - Nobody could have blamed the Bruins if they got a bit complacent on Thursday night.
The objective is always to win, of course, but with a 17-game point streak in their pocket and a two-goal deficit staring them in the face, a down night was almost to be expected. Especially with the news pregame that they would be without Jake DeBrusk - the team's hottest player - due to a lower-body injury.
The Bruins, however, were not interested in that kind of a mentality.
Despite those obstacles, Boston did anything but fold, overcoming a two-goal hole, before rallying once again in the final minute.
Down one, Matt Grzelcyk tied things up with 37 seconds to play, before Patrice Bergeron followed with the winner with 7 seconds on the clock to send the Bruins to an improbable 4-3, comeback victory over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.
"The guys want to win every night," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "They don't want to say, 'Hey we've had a real good run…it's not our night, let's get on to the next one.' I think that's a good, positive sign for us that we've got a bunch of gamers in there. It wasn't pretty from start to finish, but we did enough things well."
Video: FLA@BOS: Bergeron ties it with shorthanded goal
The victory marked just the second time in team history - and 10th time in league history - that the Bruins erased a deficit in the final minute and won in regulation. The first instance came on Dec. 4, 1986, when Tom McCarthy scored with 18 seconds remaining, setting up Ray Bourque's winner with 1 second to go.
"The way that we've been playing is always finding ways," said Bergeron, who tied the game at 2 earlier in the third with his second shorthanded goal in as many games. "It's not always going to be perfect, it's not always going to be your best game, but you're one shot away from being back in the game. That's what we talked about in the third.
"I thought we were better, but then giving up that third goal, we could have crumbled, but we stuck with it and we found a way. We're going to definitely take it, but we also know that we've got to be better."
Boston also extended its point streak to 18 games (14-0-4), the second-longest run in franchise history. The Bruins also ran off a streak of 18 consecutive games with a point last season (14-0-4 from Dec. 16-Jan. 30) and in 1968-69 (13-0-5). The team record is 23 games (15-0-8) set in 1940-41.
"Things are going so well right now…but, we're just playing hockey," said Charlie McAvoy, who had two assists. "Guys are playing well, no one's trying to do too much. Everyone's just playing to the best of their ability…no passengers, everyone's doing good, from the first line to the fourth line and all six D and both our goalies.
"Everyone's just playing well, and confidence is high right now. We're able to score goals, we're able to defend hard, so we've just got to keep this thing rolling."
Video: Bergeron has two goals in win over Florida
Things kept rolling on Thursday night in large part due to the play of Bergeron, who once again came through in the clutch. Bergeron tied the game, 2-2, at 8:50 of the third, becoming just the fifth player in Bruins history - and first since 2001 - to notch shorthanded goals in back-to-back games (Brian Rolston, Adam Oates, Dave Reid, and Dave Poulin).
But it was his dramatic winner with 7 seconds to play that will be remembered. After a strong rush by Noel Acciari and a brilliant forecheck/feed from Brad Marchand, Bergeron ripped a wrister by Florida goalie Roberto Luongo from the left circle to send TD Garden into a frenzy.
"Being on the same team with him every day to see what he does behind the scenes, the way he works on the ice and the way he produces…and he's been clutch," David Backes said when asked where Bergeron ranked among the best players he's suited up with. "He's certainly up there. He's a guy if you had to start a team, if he's not the first on your list, I'd be pretty impressed with who else you're putting in front of him."
But it was not just the usual suspects of Bergeron, Marchand (three assists), and David Krejci (goal) leading the way for the Bruins. Boston, as it has throughout most of its point streak, received contributions from up and down the lineup.
From Grzelcyk's rocket for his first goal since Nov. 8, to Backes' screen on the equalizer and his strong forecheck on Krejci's opening marker, to Danton Heinen's nifty helper on that first tally, the Bruins stayed true to their "no passengers" approach.
"We're all very happy for one another," said Marchand, whose three-helper night gave him 53 for the season, a career high. "When you look at teams that are good and make good runs, everyone is happy for each other and pushes each other. We're just as happy if the defense scored or the forwards scored or the goalie scored. Doesn't matter to us, as long as we win games.
"When you have team success, everyone has success, so it goes hand in hand, and we just want to win. That's all we're about in here and doesn't matter how we do it."
Video: FLA@BOS: Grzelcyk nets PPG to tie game late
Oh, and don't forget: Tuukka Rask stretched his own point streak to 18 games with the victory. The netminder is 15-0-3 with a 1.93 goals against average and .931 save percentage during that stretch.
"Special group for sure, it's in our DNA now that we just don't give up," said Rask. "We go about our business and just battle until the end…sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn't. I think that itself is a special thing, when you just don't give up you keep plugging away and know that the good things are going to happen when you do that. They've been lately."