Game 5 takeaways: McAvoy steps up as Bruins beat Panthers, force Game 6

Game 5 takeaways: McAvoy steps up as Bruins beat Panthers, force Game 6 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins have staved off elimination with a hard-fought victory in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference second-round playoff series versus the Florida Panthers.

A great start, a much better penalty kill and another strong performance in net by Jeremy Swayman helped propel the Bruins to a 2-1 win Tuesday night at Amerant Bank Arena.

The Bruins entered the third period of Game 4 with a 2-1 lead but couldn’t finish the job in a 3-2 loss. They took a 2-1 lead into the third period of Game 5, too, and this time Boston closed it out.

The Panthers made a strong push in the final three minutes of the third period with the goalie pulled and the extra attacker on the ice. The Bruins blocked six shots during that crucial stretch, and Swayman made a terrific save in the final seconds.

The Bruins have never won a playoff series when trailing 3-1 (0-25 all time), but they only need two more wins to change that. The series now shifts to Game 6 back in Boston on Friday. But before we look ahead to that matchup, here are three takeaways from Bruins-Panthers Game 5.

Strong start for Bruins

Mark Messier on the ESPN broadcast called the first 20 minutes of the game the Bruins’ best period of the series, and he might be right.

The Bruins tallied 12 shots on net — their highest total in a period since the first 20 minutes of Game 1. They held a 21-10 advantage in shot attempts and a 12-4 edge in shots despite the Panthers having the only power play in the period.

Boston opened the scoring at 4:49 when Morgan Geekie made a nice move to beat Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky for his second goal of the series. Jake DeBrusk picked up the primary assist after making a good pass from behind the goal line.

The Bruins also were much more effective at evading the Panthers’ aggressive forecheck by making quick, accurate passes out of the defensive zone. From a defensive perspective, the B’s allowed zero high-danger chances after giving up eight in the first period of Game 4.

Not only did the Bruins have a lead after the period, they also tilted the ice in their favor for the majority of the opening 20 minutes. They played with the right combination of poise and desperation.

Charlie McAvoy has not played his best hockey in the playoffs so far, but he stepped up in Game 5 with a strong performance.

After not tallying a single shot on net in the first four matchups of the series, McAvoy registered six Tuesday night. One of them was fired past Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in the second period to put Boston ahead 2-1. It was a huge goal for the B’s because the Panthers had tied the score just four minutes earlier.

This goal snapped a 29-game playoff goal drought for McAvoy. The last time he scored a goal in the postseason was Game 1 of the 2021 second-round series versus the New York Islanders.

McAvoy also earned an assist on Geekie’s goal for his first point in eight games.

He finished with one goal, one assist, six shots, four shot blocks and three hits in 23:26 of ice time. McAvoy also made a couple huge plays in the final three minutes of the game to help clear the zone when the Panthers had the extra attacker.

Bruins penalty kill shows huge improvement

The Bruins penalty kill went 3-for-3 in Game 1 of the series, but the next three matchups saw a sharp decline in their ability to not only stay out of the penalty box but also defend the Panthers power play.

The Bruins gave up six power play goals in Games 2, 3 and 4 combined. Boston’s penalty kill fared much better in Game 5 with a perfect 4-for-4 showing.

The most clutch penalty kill came in the third period when the Bruins took their sixth (!) too many men on the ice penalty. The Panthers had a couple good looks at the net on that power play, but the Bruins’ penalty kill did just enough to preserve the one-goal lead.

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