McAvoy for BOS postgame 51424

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Charlie McAvoy hopped over the bench. He saw what was developing, that the Boston Bruins had numbers coming down the ice and into the Florida Panthers’ zone. He saw that Andrew Peeke was coming for a change. 

He saw the possibilities. 

McAvoy jumped into the play -- “‘Chucky’ came off like an animal,” Charlie Coyle said -- skating directly from the bench and, after taking the pass from Coyle, down the slot, where he caught the pass from Coyle. Danton Heinen was battling with Oliver Ekman-Larsson in front of Sergei Bobrovsky

“Started yelling right away and great play by him to have patience with that puck and to find me,” McAvoy said.

McAvoy shot. It went in. 

The defenseman yelled in celebration -- and perhaps, relief. It was his first goal of these Stanley Cup Playoffs, his first postseason goal since May 29, 2021, in fact. And it put the Bruins up by a goal, 2-1, in a game that they needed to win to stave off elimination in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Panthers, which had been 3-1 heading into Game 5. 

“What a shot to finish,” Coyle said. 

But, hold on a second. The Panthers had opted to challenge the play for goaltender interference, a decision that set the Bruins on edge. Asked how he reacted to the review, McAvoy didn’t get a chance to answer before David Pastrnak jumped in. 

“Oh, he was freaking out,” Pastrnak said. “I saw him.”

The goal would stand, the game-winner in the 2-1 victory Tuesday that allowed the Bruins to extend the series and send it back to Boston for Game 6 at TD Garden on Friday. 

It was, by far, McAvoy’s best game of the series and the entire postseason, one in which he has been shaky at times. 

“It’s nice to be rewarded for everything he does,” Coyle said. “Charlie does it all. He does it all, even when he’s not scoring. I know he wants to score and contribute, which he’s more than capable, we’ve seen it. But when he’s not, he just leads and leads. 

“Whatever the situation calls for in a game, it’s like he comes and makes that big play. Tonight, it was the goal at that moment, but even besides that, it’s everything else he does within the game to make a big difference.”

BOS@FLA R2, Gm5: McAvoy whips in a shot from the slot to make it 2-1

It was just Monday, ahead of Game 5, that general manager Don Sweeney had assured that McAvoy was healthy, saying, “Offensively, he hasn’t found his groove. No question. We’d like him to shoot a little bit more, be involved there.”

McAvoy had gotten zero shots on goal through the first four games of the series, though he had made a tremendous impact in Game 4 with his tone-setting hit on Sam Reinhart in the opening minutes, even though the Bruins ultimately lost. 

“I’ve been trying, certainly, certainly taking shots,” McAvoy said. “Just haven’t seen them be able to get to the net. You never lose confidence. It’s the playoffs. It’s up and down, it’s emotional, and every day is a new day. That’s all we’re given. 

“So I’ve been trying to just keep the same mindset. I’m grateful for these opportunities and the guys that I get to go to war with. I want to do the best that I can. Tonight was just good to see them get on net and see them create some opportunities for our team.”

He finished the game with a goal and an assist, with six shots on goal, with three hits and four blocked shots. He played 23:26, second only to Hampus Lindholm’s 25:33.

“He’s a complete player,” goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “He’s a leader on our team, the way he plays, the way he carries himself. What I respect most about him is the way that he doesn’t allow anything to faze him. He stays even-keel, always positive and you know a guy like that’s going to pull through in big moments. 

“I think he’s just getting started and I’m really excited to see what he does for us.”

Coach Jim Montgomery noted that, normally, McAvoy is a quiet leader, doesn’t say a whole lot. But he could see him on the bench, talking to his teammates, leading them on, something even more important with the team’s captain, Brad Marchand, out for a second straight game. 

He did it again after the game, knowing that he and his teammates had earned themselves at least one more game, one more chance. It comes Friday. 

“Never say die,” McAvoy said. “We’re going home and this series is wide open. Let’s go home and win a hockey game.”