The Boston Bruins began a stretch of four straight games against Atlantic Division opponents over the weekend, but Monday night’s visit from the Florida Panthers could mean a little bit more.
While a 7-0-1 start has the Bruins sitting as one of only two NHL teams without a regulation loss, last April’s first-round playoff exit to Florida — following a record-setting run to the Presidents’ Trophy — cannot be fully forgotten.
“I haven’t thought about it yet, but I’m sure on Monday the guys that are returning will want to have a good hockey game,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said following Saturday’s 4-1 win over Detroit.
David Pastrnak’s pair of third-period goals brought the Bruins over the edge against the Red Wings, which was a strong bounce-back effort from Thursday’s overtime loss to Anaheim.
Pastrnak already has recorded eight goals and five multi-point games in eight contests this season. He has scored on two penalty shots, reaching that mark faster than any player in NHL history since the penalty shot was instituted in 1934-35.
Pavel Zacha and defenseman Charlie McAvoy also scored against Detroit. McAvoy’s first goal of the season stood as the game-winner.
“I thought he started the year off well and now I think he’s just dominating,” Montgomery said of McAvoy.
The Bruins will look to keep up their balanced production during the stretch of divisional games, which can admittedly feel like “four-point games” in the standings and boost momentum.
“Every team in this league is a serious opponent, but again, those division points are huge for us,” goaltender Jeremy Swayman said. “We know that these points matter early on in the season and (are) big momentum pieces for us to build off of and grow from.”
The Panthers have won back-to-back and four of their last five games after coming from two goals behind for a 3-2 win over Seattle on Saturday. As a result, their record is above .500 for the first time.
While Sam Reinhart’s five-game goal and point streak ended in the win, Gustav Forsling, Matthew Tkachuk and Nick Cousins all scored their first goals of the season. The first two goals to tie the game came within an 11-second span.
“It’s hockey,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said. “In the regular season, there will be ups and downs and it’s a part of the process. It’s most important that we got the two points and the win.”
Bobrovsky has lived that mantra out in the early going. His 30-save effort against Seattle was a big one, as he entered the game with a 2-3-0 record and .899 save percentage.
Back-up Anthony Stolarz has played in just one game so far.
Closing the homestand on a winning note was key before Florida headed out for three straight and four road games in a five-game span.
“The road can be a real grind for us, so home has to be a good place for us,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “A big chunk of that is believing you are a good home team.”
Forward Sam Bennett (lower-body injury) did not practice Sunday, but his regular-season debut still has a chance to come in Boston, according to Maurice.
“When you’ve been out for a while, you really miss being out there,” Bennett said during the week.