BOSTON – Gustav Forsling doesn’t seek the spotlight.

Despite being one of the most-effective defensemen in the NHL, the soft-spoken Swede has seemingly flown under the radar during his rise to stardom with the Florida Panthers.

More often than not, his biggest contributions go unnoticed to the casual viewer.

If you watch him closely, you’ll see the countless plays he kills in the neutral zone, the cross-ice passes he breaks up with a perfectly timed stick, the tape-to-tape outlet passes to set up odd-man rushes and so many other things that don’t show up in the box score.

But after his heroics on Friday night in Boston, his name is now known by many.

With scored tied 1-1 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round, Forsling stunned the crowd at TD Garden when he pounced on a rebound, turned and fired the puck through a defender’s legs and past Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman from the left circle to make it 2-1 with 1:33 left.

For a split-second after the puck touched the back of the net, the game seemed to freeze.

Forsling's late goal gives Florida a 2-1 lead.

“I got the puck and just followed up in the rush and kicked it out to Lundy (Anton Lundell),” said Forsling, recalling the game-winning tally. “Got the rebound and, honestly, just trying to get it to the net. I really didn’t see it go in. I just saw someone else react. It was amazing.”

From there, the Panthers held on to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Final.

In the history of the franchise, Forsling is the first D-man to score a series-clinching goal.

“I’m not usually the guy that scores the game-winning goal,” Forsling said with a grin during his post-game media availability in front of a sea of cameras. “I’m trying to defend out there most of the time. It’s fun to score a little bit and help the team win, but I’ll stick to defense.”

While his goal was certainly a sweet treat, defense is his bread and butter.

Building off a regular season in which he led the NHL with a +56 plus/minus rating -- the highest by a defenseman since Detroit Red Wings blueliner Vladimir Konstantinov had a +60 plus/minus in 1995-96 -- Forsling has carried that stalwart approach into the playoffs.

Through two rounds, the 27-year-old ranks second among Florida’s defensemen in points (7), goals (2) and average ice time per game (22:30). Of those minutes, 31:35 have come on the penalty kill, which places him behind only Aaron Ekblad (32:15) among the team’s D-men.

At 5-on-5, Florida has led 10-8 in goals when Forsling has been deployed in the playoffs, a statistic that carries extra weight when you factor in that he often faces opposing team’s top players.

Looking at Game 6, it was his gap control that left a mark on head coach Paul Maurice.

“His gap was fantastic,” Maurice said of Forsling, whose fitness and skating ability is rivaled by few. “The thing we didn’t like about our Game 5 was our gap, and it’s really what he does best. Right from the start, he was so good with it, and then he also throws in some offense.”

While hockey isn’t a 1-on-1 sport, Forsling’s ability to shut down stars stands out.

With Forsling and Ekblad playing some of the toughest minutes on the team’s top pair in the playoffs, the Panthers successfully held Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov, who led the NHL with 144 points in the regular season, to only four even-strength points in Round 1.

In Round 2, they limited Bruins star David Pastrnak to just two even-strength points.

While his lack of time on the power play will likely keep him from winning a Norris Trophy for the time being, Forsling, who should finish at least within the top-10 in voting for the award this year, is the type of defenseman that every team should want to have on their blue line.

Even if many of his plays don’t show up on the scoresheet, they contribute to the most-important stat.


“I think that’s what the Norris Trophy is,” Maurice said while talking about Forsling all-around game. “I don’t think it’s the defensemen necessarily that gets the most points. It’s very difficult to identity a guy if we’re talking about things that aren’t easily measured. There are different styles of defensemen, and in that style he’s the best in the world.”

As the quest for the Stanley Cup continues, Forsling and the Panthers will face another tough defensive challenge when they kick off the Eastern Conference Final with Game 1 against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.

In the meantime, fans can bask in the eight-year contract extension Forsling signed in March.