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Stempniak Helps Bruins Squeeze Out Two Points in Sunrise

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

SUNRISE, Fla. — The win may not have been the most pronounced, with the Bruins squeezing out two points in overtime after seeing a 4-1 lead evaporate, but they finished Monday night with a 5-4 decision over the Panthers to make Head Coach Claude Julien the all-time wins leader in franchise history.

With the victory — the 388th of his Bruins coaching career — the bench boss passed Art Ross in regular season wins.

It came as a result of Lee Stempniak’s first goal as a Bruin. In addition to the overtime winner, Stempniak recorded an assist on each of Patrice Bergeron’s two goals.

Through Stempniak’s four games in Black & Gold, the winger has a goal and five assists.

“It’s been fun,” Stempniak said postgame. “I’m fortunately with two great players [in Bergeron and Brad Marchand], they’re playing well, they’ve been having great years, so for me, it’s trying to complement them and not mess it up at this point.”

“And tonight was a good win, despite blowing the lead — it’s nice to stick with it, get the two points.”

“I mean, I’m not surprised. He’s a great player. He’s been a great player for many years and it’s been great having him with us on a line,” said Bergeron. “We’re just trying to create some more chemistry and find ways to get better, but overall, he’s been great.”

With exactly one minute left in overtime, Stempniak faked to the far side and fired a shot short side on Panthers netminder Al Montoya, after a feed two-on-one from Ryan Spooner.

“Well, he’s obviously experienced, he’s a good skater, he’s a smart player, he’s a reliable player,” Julien said of Stempniak. “It’s just his poise and, again, when you look at the goal he scored, he has such a great shot — I don’t think many goaltenders can stop that. He came up big for us.”

The Bruins felt fortunate to come away with two points, even if they let Florida grab a point in the process.

Boston came out with plenty of energy at the start of the game.

Just 34 seconds into the game, Bergeron — for the third straight game — gave the Bruins an early 1-0 lead. David Pastrnak put them up 2-0 at 7:00 into the period, with Brett Connolly making it 3-0 by the time 13 minutes had passed (and Noel Acciari picking up his first NHL point with the assist).

An Aleksander Barkov goal late in the first made it a 3-1 game, but Bergeron regained the three-goal lead for Boston with his second of the night to make it 4-1 heading into the second period.

“I mean, I’m happy with the first period,” said Bergeron. “I think after that, it was too many turnovers and breakdowns in our zone and too much of them just taking the play to us. When you do that against a team like them, they’re going to be in your own end all night.”

The Bruins ended up being outshot 18-5 in the second period, and at one point, the Panthers had a 13-1 shots advantage.

Florida was more assertive to start the middle frame. Shawn Thornton and Adam McQuaid dropped the gloves just 1:20 into the period. Jiri Hudler scored his first goal as a Panther less than two minutes later.

The Black & Gold then found themselves on two straight penalty kills.

The Panthers struck just nine seconds into the first power play opportunity to make it a one-goal game in the second. Perfect movement off a faceoff win led to Jussi Jokinen’s point-blank tally.

Despite all of Florida’s chances, Tuukka Rask kept the game from getting too far out of hand. Starting his seventh straight game, Rask finished the night with 47 saves on 51 shots.

“A lot of rubber, yeah,” Rask acknowledged. “We got the lead, very comfortable lead in the first period, we created some chances off turnovers and we also gave up a lot, and then in the second, we were just kind of passive and they scored a goal, they scored two goals and we never regrouped from that.”

“We stayed very, very passive and couldn’t get anything going offensively but you know, third period was better, and we escaped with the win.”

“Really one of the worst periods I've seen from our hockey club,” acknowledged Julien.

Rask was so busy in the second period that he hardly remembers the intermission talk.

“I was just trying to catch my breath, but probably, you know, [the message was] just ‘go out there and go win the game,’” said Rask. “Get the big kill out of the way [to start the third], and then go win the game.”

Boston had to kill off the remaining three minutes of a David Krejci high-sticking double minor to start the third period.

Hudler’s second goal of the night tied the game at 4-4 with less than five minutes to go in regulation.

“I always expect the worst because I’m a goalie and that’s what I have to be prepared for,” said Rask. “But obviously not as good as we want to play defensively, so we have to get better at that, but the great thing is that we won and scored a lot of goals.”

The game ended up lasting three hours, with the stoppages for goals and a Coach’s Challenge from each side in the first period. Florida challenged that the play that led to Pastrnak’s goal was offside, with that goal being upheld.

Then, Boston used its Coach’s Challenge on Barkov’s goal, challenged that Rask was interfered with on the play. Rask said that Jaromir Jagr’s stick was between his legs, exposing his five-hole. When the netminder couldn’t get his pad down, Barkov scored through the opening. It was deemed a good goal.

“You know, it’s something they look at and make a decision and a couple times this season it hasn’t gone our way, but that’s how it is,” said Rask.

With a 10:38 end time, the Bruins quickly jetted off to Tampa Bay to face the Panthers in the second leg of the divisional back-to-back on Tuesday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NESN/98.5 The Sports Hub).

‘We needed overtime here tonight to win this hockey game. but you know, hardfought game, both teams,” said Julien. “I don't think either team’s s going to be real happy with their play. We're not teams that like to give up that many goals."

Tampa Bay dropped a 4-2 decision in Philadelphia on Monday night.

If the Bruins can pull out a win over the Bolts on Tuesday, they’ll jump them by one point for first in the Atlantic Division.

“I think a lot of the plays were sloppy and we tried to address it after that second period, and the third was somewhat better, but still not good enough,” said Bergeron. “We definitely have to learn. We’re back at it [Tuesday] against another great team offensively — and we’re going to get burned at some point if we keep doing that.”

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