The Bruins scored three times on Roberto Luongo in a 3-2 win over the Panthers Monday night at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

What you’re watching is boy become a man in David Pastrnak. In just his 21st game of the season, it was the 20-year-old Pastrnak that came through with two key goals, including the overtime game-winner, in a 4-3 final over the visiting Panthers, his 14th and 15th goals of the year.

His clinic against the Cats was just par for the course in a game in which the Bruins simply devoured the Panthers D for 36 shots.

The weak point of the Panthers through the first two months of the season, the Bruins exposed their shoddy defensive play with some first period trickery. Or just some flatout mind numbing patience.

It was center David Krejci that set up camp behind the Florida net with enough patience and borderline boredom from No. 46 that lulled the Panthers into a puck-watching daze while winger Tim Schaller broke through a four-man box of Panthers, including Aaron Ekblad, and scored on Roberto Luongo for his fourth goal of the season.

Scored with just 1:28 left in the first period, Schaller’s tally as the game’s lone goal through 20 minutes of play.

But as they did in Buffalo two days prior, the Bruins allowed the opposition to claw their way back into contention behind a sleepy middle period that featured 11 shots on Tuukka Rask, with Jaromir Jagr finally putting the Cats on the board at the 9:44 mark.

The Bruins once again exposed some wrinkles in their opponent’s defense, however, as the Bergeron line danced around the attacking zone to the dismay of the Panthers. It began with a Patrice Bergeron shot that went a little high of Luongo, was continued with a Brad Marchand retrieval of the puck, and finished with a bullet from David Pastrnak.

With the goal, scored with just 3:23 left in the second period, Pastrnak’s total on the year jumped to 14, while his post-injury return line jumped up to four goals and six points in seven games since Thanksgiving.

Florida answered yet again, though, 7:54 into the third period behind an Aleksander Barkov goal (with an assist to ex-Bruin Reilly Smith) that featured a rarely seen sight: a Bergeron turnover and Zdeno Chara present goal against.

Like a boxing match, these teams continued to trade punches, as the Bruins jumped back out front with a David Backes deflection just over the 13-minute mark of the third period for his seventh goal of the season. But like they did all game, the Panthers responded late, on 6-on-5 goal scored by Jason Demers with just 1:29 to go in the third.

It was the Bruins that once again had their say, though, behind Pastrnak’s second of the night, scored just 1:23 into the overtime.

Here are four other things we learned in this one

Chara returns to lineup after six-game absence

After what felt like an eternity of an increase in participation in practices, drills, and morning skates, the 39-year-old Zdeno Chara finally returned to the B’s lineup tonight after missing the previous six games with a lower-body injury.

Paired with his normal partner Brandon Carlo on the club’s top pairing, Chara seemed to ease himself back in the game with an uptick in his overall comfort as the game went on. This has been the biggest issue for Chara in his road to a return, too, as it’s been alluded to that it wasn’t clearance that held the 6-foot-9 captain back, but rather his overall comfort/discomfort with whatever it was that had been ailing him since the second period of the Black and Gold’s Nov. 22 loss to the Blues.

Rask writes 21st chapter of mastery over Panthers

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask entered tonight’s game with some straight-up staggering career numbers against the Panthers. I’m talking lights out and then some kind of stuff. Coming into action with 16 wins and a .951 save percentage in 20 career games against the Panthers, it was more of the same from the 29-year-old stud early in this one, as Rask turned away all but one of the first 19 shots thrown his way, and all but two of the first 28 shots thrown on net by the Panthers.

What you liked from Rask in this one was what you’ve liked all night from Rask, too. He was calm around the front of his net, tracked pucks well, and came up with big stops when you needed them (for the most part).

In a game that finished with stops on 28 of 30 shots against, Rask improved to 17-3-1 against the Panthers in his career, although his save percentage dipped down a few points into the .940 range. Still, pretty decent.

Jaromir Jagr continues to find success against Bruins

It was in the summer of 2013 that the Bruins walked away from Jaromir Jagr. At 41, and after a postseason that featured zero goals and 10 assists in 22 games in an unsuccessful pursuit of the Stanley Cup Final, though the Bruins fell just two wins short, the Bruins seemed to believe that Jagr was done. Most of the league felt that way, too, apparently, as Jagr did not land a contract with a team until late July on a one-year deal with the Devils that was loaded with games played bonuses.

In the short term, it made sense for the B’s, who replaced Jagr with Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson. But looking back on it, the Bruins were without a doubt wrong about Jagr and his shelf life. And pushing 45, Jagr has made ’em realize it with every chance.

In his 13th head-to-head against the Bruins since leaving Boston — where tallied two goals and nine points in 11 games, and 19 points in 33 games overall if you care to include those aforementioned playoff totals — No. 68 came through with the Panthers’ first goal of the night, giving him two goals and 11 points in 13 games against the Black and Gold since 2013.

Spooner-Nash-Czarnik line shows some promise

You never want to lose a player like Matt Beleskey — the 28-year-old missed tonight’s game with a suspected lower-body injury and underwent further evaluation this morning — but if you do, it’s important that you see nights like the one you saw from the Bruins’ makeshift third line with Ryan Spooner in Beleskey’s spot on the left side with Riley Nash and Austin Czarnik. In a complementary scoring role and a line with three centers, the trio really appeared to generate some stellar offensive opportunities with the help of the speed on the wings (Czarnik and Spooner might just be the B’s fastest skaters) and strong puck movement through the neutral zone.  This may have also been the best game of the year put forth by Spooner — who was straight-up robbed by Roberto Luongo on a top shelf chance on a first period power play — all things considered.

Spooner would take some third period shifts with the David Krejci and David Backes combination, as has become somewhat of a tradition when the Bruins are looking for more offense from that line, and would take the shot that put the Bruins in front 3-2, though it would Backes that collected the goal with his net-front tip.

Still, if Beleskey’s injury is anything serious, it would make some sense for the Bruins to keep this group together.

The Bruins return to the ice with a Wednesday night road tilt against the Capitals.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Charlie McAvoy was among 27 selected for Team USA's preliminary roster for the 2017 World Junior Championships. (Timothy Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

Bruins prospect Charlie McAvoy was among 27 selected for Team USA’s preliminary roster for the 2017 World Junior Championships. (Timothy Ludwig/USA Today Sports)

If all goes to plan, the Bruins will have at least two of their defensemen from the 2016 NHL Draft well represented at the 2017 World Junior Championships in Montreal. And that’s just on the Team USA roster.

Per an announcement from USA Hockey earlier today, B’s prospects Charlie McAvoy and Ryan Lindgren were among the 27 named to Team USA’s preliminary roster, and will compete for a spot on the roster beginning with a five-day camp in Buffalo, N.Y., from Dec. 16 to 20.

McAvoy, drafted by the B’s with the 14th overall pick this past draft, is in the midst of his second season with Boston University, and has recorded one goal and 12 points in 14 games for the Terriers this year.

The 18-year-old McAvoy had zero points and a plus-5 rating in seven games for Team USA in last year’s tournament.

And Lindgren, the 49th overall pick from the 2016 class, has earned an invite back to Team USA camp after a one goal and three point start to his freshman season with the University of Minnesota through 14 games. Lindgren skated in the U-18 World Juniors a year ago, where he served as the team’s captain, and contributed two goals and five points in seven contests.

The Americans took home the Bronze in last year’s tourney, and have medaled in four of the last seven tournaments.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Anton Blidh will suit up for his second career NHL game. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Anton Blidh will suit up for his second career NHL game. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Don’t let Anton Blidh’s quiet demeanor and nervous laugh off the ice fool you. The energetic forward knows how to seek and annoy.

“That’s my job,” Blidh, who is expected to begin his night on the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Jimmy Hayes, said after the morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of tonight’s head-to-head with the Panthers. “I know I’m here to bring energy.”

Called up from the P-Bruins for his NHL debut last Saturday in a 2-1 win over the Sabres, the 21-year-old put forth a solid effort, credited with four hits and three shots on goal in just 10:12 of time on ice.

Built a little different than the other seven rookies or prospects that have made their NHL debut for the Black and Gold this season. Blidh, a former sixth-round draft choice (180th overall) by the club in 2013, is not here to score or fill-in on the Bruins’ top six.

Blidh is here to cause havoc for the opposition in any and every situation.

It’s a thin walk an agitator walks, especially one that’s making their first impression on their parent club.

“That first [NHL] game is always nerve-racking,” Bruins forward Austin Czarnik, one of the other seven players to have made their NHL debut for the Black and Gold this season, admitted. “[Blidh] said me a couple times to me that he was nervous out there but I think he did a lot of good things out there and he created a couple of chances.”

Blidh, who has skated with all-world goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in the summer (both skated for Frolunda HC of the Swedish Elite League, though at different times) and shares a hometown with ex-Bruin Loui Eriksson in Gotheburg, Swe., admitted that there were some nerves Saturday in Buffalo, but added that, with his arms extending out and motioning to the other stalls in the Bruins’ locker room, ahead of NHL game No. 2, that he feels that he’s just another part of the team.

“I’m not too nervous now,” Blidh said with a smile.

The big news heading into this one, though, is the expected return of B’s captain Zdeno Chara after missing the last six games with a lower-body injury. A full participant in the morning skate, the 39-year-old has been dubbed “probable” to return to action. The Bruins went 3-2-1 in Chara’s absence versus an 11-8-0 record with him in the lineup.

Elsewhere in the lineup, Matt Beleskey (lower-body) is out, while Torey Krug is expected to play despite having missed the morning skate with flu-like symptoms (similar to what Patrice Bergeron dealt with this past weekend).

Tuukka Rask gets the call in net for the Bruins. Rask made a season-high 35 stops for his 13th win of the season last Saturday, including 17 in the third period, and enters play with 16 wins and a .951 save percentage in 20 career games against the Panthers, including a 33-of-34 performance against the club back on Nov. 1.

The Panthers are expected to counter with Roberto Luongo. The 37-year-old Luongo stopped 19-of-21 in his last start (a Dec. 3 loss to the Senators), and comes into play with just nine wins in 17 games in spite of a .929 save percentage on the season. Luongo allowed two goals on 26 shots against in a losing effort in his only prior head-to-head with the B’s this season.

This is the second of four meetings between the Atlantic Division rivals this season.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Tim Schaller – David Krejci – David Backes

Ryan Spooner – Riley Nash – Austin Czarnik

Anton Blidh – Dominic Moore – Jimmy Hayes

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Joe Morrow – Kevan Miller

Rask

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Matt Beleskey

Matt Beleskey

A grind-it-out 2-1 road victory over the Sabres last Saturday did not come without a price for the Bruins.

Just how much of a price, however, remains to be fully seen just yet.

Injured at the end of the first period on a hit from the Sabres’ Taylor Fedun at the blue line, Bruins winger Matt Beleskey gingerly made his way to the B’s bench and down the tunnel — where he would not return in a night that ended just 5:27 into it — as he favored what looked like a hip injury.

Absent from the on-ice portion of the club’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of tonight’s Atlantic Division matchup with the Panthers, the Bruins had an update — of sorts, anyways — on No. 39.

“He’s seeing our doctors as we speak,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said when asked for a Beleskey update. “We’ll obviously have our answer there right around tonight.”

With Beleskey out, Ryan Spooner shuffles in as the expected third line left-wing on a line with Riley Nash and Austin Czarnik.

In 24 contests this year, the 28-year-old Beleskey has tallied two goals and five points, and contributed 62 hits, most among B’s.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

After six games on the shelf with a lower-body injury, with increasing participation in practices and morning skates but still no game action, B’s captain Zdeno Chara was back in his normal spot on the top pairing opposite Brandon Carlo for the club’s Monday morning skate.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is expected back in the lineup tonight. (Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports)

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara is expected back in the lineup tonight. (Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports)

After six games on the shelf with a lower-body injury, with increasing participation in practices and morning skates but still no game action, B’s captain Zdeno Chara was back in his normal spot on the top pairing opposite Brandon Carlo for the club’s Monday morning skate.

“Probable,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Chara’s status for tonight’s game against the Panthers. “More than likely probable.”

The Bruins have gone 3-2-1 in Chara’s absence, outscoring their opponents 12-to-10 while allowing 28.8 shots against per night.

With their 6-foot-9 captain in action this season, the Bruins have gone 11-8-0, and allowed just 44 goals (2.32 goals against per night).

Now in his 10th year as the Bruins’ captain, Chara has recorded one goal and five assists, along with a plus-12 rating, and a 53.0 Corsi-For percentage this season.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Patrice Bergeron has four goals and seven points in 22 games this season. (James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports)

Patrice Bergeron has four goals and seven points in 22 games this season. (James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports)

Patrice Bergeron’s fourth goal of the season turned out to be a big one for the Bruins in a 2-1 road victory over the Sabres. That sentence reads odd. Not because Bergeron’s goal was an important one — he’s scored tons of those over his decade-plus with the B’s — but rather the fact that it was just his fourth goal of the season, 22 games into the season.

In fact, with four goals and seven points through 22 games this season, this is a season in which No. 37 is paced for just 26 points this year.

If that pace holds, it would obviously finish the lowest single-season total of his career (excluding the 10-game 2007-08 campaign that was cut short by a devastating Grade-3 concussion that plagued Bergeron’s health for almost — if not over — an entire year).

Compare this year’s totals to date versus where Bergeron was a year ago — which was eight goals and 22 points and 74 shots on goal in 22 games — and you understand the concern. What makes those struggles even more concerning, in a way, is that Bergeron is on a line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, two players that either continued to score (Marchand) or developed into one of the game’s top talents (Pastrnak). The counterpoint to that argument, however, is that there’s still only one puck on the ice at once, so perhaps Bergeron’s dip in production was to be expected with that kind of talent around him.

It’s of course worth noting that Bergeron did miss the first three games of this season with a lower-body injury (an injury some believe it’s still lingering), and skated through yesterday’s game with a sickness that limited Bergeron’s overall game.

“He just sucks it up,” B’s coach Claude Julien said of Bergeron. “You gotta do a heck of a lot to keep him out of a lineup. He almost has to be strapped down to a bed for him not to come and play. He plays through a lot.”

But even so, Bergeron has made his production count.

Of his four goals this year, two have been third period game-winning goals, including Saturday’s strike in Buffalo. His others include the opening goal of what finished as a 5-2 loss to the Rangers on Nov. 5, though Bergeron did his part with a goal in the opening 3:44 of the game, and one of the B’s four goals in a blowout win over the Jets Nov. 19. Of his three assists, two came in a massive 4-3 road win over the Lightning, while the other came in last Sunday’s home win over the Bolts.

So at least that part of his game — Bergeron entered this year sixth on the club’s all-time game-winning goals list and just four away from moving into the top five, with 48 — has remained the same for the Black and Gold.

“That’s why he’s not only an unsung hero to our team, but also a great player, nothing stops him,” said Julien.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Hour two of Saturday Skate after a Bruins 2-1 over Buffalo, with Ken Laird and Rear Admiral debating the status of Krejci, Chara, Krug and Bergeron.
The first hour of Saturday Skate starts up against the third period of Bruins - Sabres, so Ken Laird and Rear Admiral give some Red Sox hot stove and Rob Gronkowski thoughts before moving into Bruins - Sabres game reaction

Days like Saturday in Buffalo are the perfect reminder as to just how lost the Bruins would be without goaltender Tuukka Rask.