BEDFORD – The Boston Bruins sounded overly excited about an opportunity they wanted to avoid.
The Florida Panthers forced a deciding Game 7 in their opening round Stanley Cup playoff series with a 7-5 victory over the Bruins on Friday night at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Fla. The Bruins and Panthers take the ice for the final time on Sunday night (6:30) at the TD Garden.
The only benefit the Bruins got from winning the Presidents Trophy while setting NHL single season records for wins (65) and points (135) is the “opportunity” to host Game 7 in a series they once led 3-1.
“Opportunity, that’s the word that comes to my mind,” said Bruins coach Jim Montgomery following the team’s arrival on Saturday afternoon at Hanscom Field.
“You are playing a Game 7 at home. We had the regular season we had. That is over and done with but it got us this Game 7 in front of our great fans. It’s an opportunity to go and seize the moment.”
Bruins team captain Patrice Bergeron will be playing in the 14th Game 7 of his career, the most in NHL history by a forward. Bergeron will tie the NHL record of 14 held by former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara.
The Bruins’ captain suffered an undisclosed upper body injury in the season finale at Montreal and missed the first four games against the Panthers.
Bergeron played well in his return for Game 5 but was a non-factor in Game 6, where he skated 17:27 minutes with no points and was a minus-3.
“I am excited and I am looking forward to the opportunity first and foremost,” said Bergeron. “Yeah, Game 7, I am excited about that and it is one of those things when you were a kid you always dreamed of being a part of.
“Now we are here and the first six games do not matter. Just play the game and take a breath after every shift and be focused and stay in the moment.”
Montgomery was non-committal when pressed about replacing Linus Ullmark with Jeremy Swayman in goal for Game 7. Montgomery did not rule out a goaltending change while adding that it could be a group decision to be handed down after the pregame skate.
Ullmark is a lock to win the Vezina Trophy but has not looked sharp in the series, especially in the last two games where he has allowed 10 goals.
Ullmark has started six games with 20 goals allowed and a very pedestrian 3.33 goals against average and .896 save percentage. He allowed six goals on 32 shots in Game 6.
“Linus didn’t make enough stops, that would be the reason for me to (make a change), plain and simple,” said Montgomery. “I do not regret the decisions we’ve made as a staff and that I personally made for lineup decisions and who has been in net.
“When it comes to Jeremy Swayman, he is the most confident individual that I know. He kind of like you give the ball to (Roger) Clemens to go and win Game 7 on the mound. You are down in the last two minutes and Tom Brady has the ball. You like your chances.”