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Panthers take a 2-1 series lead over the Bruins, scoring 4 power-play goals in a 6-2 victory

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BOSTON (AP) — The Florida Panthers pounced on the power play, scoring twice on a Bruins double-minor — and four goals in all with a man advantage — to take a 2-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Vladimir Tarasenko and Carter Verhaeghe scored 1 minute apart on the same power play, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 14 shots to lead the Panthers to a 6-2 victory over Bruins on Friday night. It was Florida’s second straight six-goal game, helped by Mason Lohrei’s high stick that hit Panthers forward Steven Lorentz in the face and drew blood.

“That was a huge opportunity for us. And we knew it, and we capitalized,” said Florida center Sam Bennett, who returned after missing four games with an undisclosed injury. “Power-play goals in the playoffs, they can be hard to come by at times. Our power play did a great job of bearing down and getting two very important goals at an important part of the game.”

Power-play goals have been especially hard to come by against Boston, which killed off 27 of its first 28 penalties in this year’s postseason. The Panthers have now scored in five of their last seven power-play opportunities in the series.

“I’ve been far more bullish on our power play than the stats — or at least the goals — would tell you,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “It’s easy to say now, ‘Well, it’s just a matter of time.’ But if you keep doing the right things over and over again, you’re going to have a good night. And I think we saved those up.”

Evan Rodrigues scored twice, and Brandon Montour also connected for the Panthers, who have won back-to-back games after dropping the opener at home. A 6-1 winner Wednesday night, Florida scored 10 straight goals before Jakub Lauko made it 4-1 early in the third and Jake DeBrusk followed with 11:31 left to make it a two-goal game.

But Boston, which played the final 20 minutes without captain and No. 2 scorer Brad Marchand, could get no closer before Sam Reinhart added an empty-netter with 1:24 left. Rodrigues scored again — Florida’s fourth power-play goal of the game — in the final minute.

Now the Bruins need a win at home Sunday night to avoid a 3-1 deficit heading back to Florida for Game 5.

“Florida was good. We weren’t. We move onto the next game,” said Bruins coach Jim Montgomery, who will have to decide whether to turn to Linus Ullmark, who alternated with Jeremy Swayman for almost the entire season before Boston abandoned the rotation in the playoffs. “It’s too early to be able to talk about changes.”

Swayman stopped 27 shots for Boston, which was outshot 13-3 in the first period and 33-16 overall. Things got worse when Marchand, who seemed to struggle after a first-period hit by Bennett, did not return for the third period.

But that turned out to be the only competitive period for the Bruins.

“I thought we rallied because of our captain,” Montgomery said. “I thought that (David Pastrnak) and Charlie McEvoy did a great job with him not being on the bench. I thought our players all elevated and we competed like Brad Marchand would.”

After splitting the first two games on their home ice, the Panthers made it 1-0 after eight minutes when Rodrigues knocked a puck out of the air and past Swayman. It stayed that way until Lohrei hit Lorentz in the mouth with his stick late in the second.

With 23 seconds left in the first half of the penalty, Tarasenko beat Swayman with a wrist shot from the left circle — with an assist from Sam Bennett, who was back in in the lineup for the first time since Game 2 of the first-round series against Tampa Bay. Verhaeghe scored a minute later to make it 3-0.

Early in the third, Lauko was sent off for interfering with the goalie. The Bruins howled that he was shoved into Bobrovsky by Aaron Ekblad, and fans threw water bottles and giveaway towels onto the ice, delaying the game for a few minutes.

But when the debris was clear, Montour scored to give Florida a 4-0 lead.

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AP NHL playoffs:https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

By JIMMY GOLEN
AP Sports Writer

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