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Dave Hyde: Panthers put hurting on Bruins in every way with 6-2 win in Game 3

At the start of Game 3, as if to set the table for this night, Boston captain Brad Marchand leaned into Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov at the opening face-off with some choice words.

“Wanna go?” he said.

He wanted to fight Barkov right then, right there. Surely he was setting some “tone” or making some “statement” he thought important. Maybe he wanted to pick up this night where Game 2 ended, which was with an undercard of fights topped by the Panthers’ Matthew Tkachuk flattening Boston’s David Pastrnak.

“No,’’ Barkov said to Marchand, smartly shaking his head.

By night’s end, Marchand was out of the game after being hit cleanly by Sam Bennett, Barkov had set up two goals, the Panthers’ power-play made Boston pay for its undisciplined play and the Panthers survived a late Boston rally to win in Boston, 6-2.

Wanna go?

Yeah, go up 2-1 in the series. Go into Game 4 on Sunday night with full momentum. Go playing their disciplined game that has limited Boston to 31 shots the past two games combined.

How do you enter the lion’s den, answer the bully, keep your cool and send the only message that matters in postseason play?

You dominate play in the manner the Panthers did in Game 3. You get the lead on a goal from Evan Rodrigues. You hold Boston to a measly three shots in the first period, none of them threatening. You outshoot them 24-8 after two periods.

“We just played our game,’’ Rodrigues said.

Boston fans came loaded with hometown anger after the manner the Panthers didn’t just beat Boston in Game 2 but beat them up in that wonderfully messy end.

Boston heavyweight Pat Maroon talked earlier Friday about how it was “dirty” that Tkachuk punched an ice-bound Pastrnak. That led to the strategic targeting of Barkov, the Panthers best player and, like Pastrnak, a skilled pacifist.

Charlie Coyle tried to mix it up with Barkov in the opening face-off circle and demanded he leave the circle. Marchand then stepped in with his offer.

Boston didn’t stop there. Morgan Geekie took a couple runs at Barkov, one of which resulted in a penalty. That’s one way to get back at a team.

The other, better way? Win.

“It wasn’t even brought up,’’ Bennett said when asked if the Panthers plotted to be more physical after Game 2. “No one was even worried about retribution. We were worried about winning.’’

Bennett had been out since taking a rifled puck to his wrist in the opening playoff game against Tampa Bay.

Bennett flattened Pastrnak in the first period with a sternum-thumping collision. Marchand took a run at Bennett, too. Bennett’s return hit left Marchand crumpled on the ice and in pain on the bench. He returned to the game but was a no-show by the third period.

“I love playoff hockey,’’ Bennett said. “It’s a little faster, more physical and every play is a little bit more important.”

It was everyone, everywhere like that for the Panthers. The fourth-line center, Steven Lorentz, contributed again in a different way. He had the Panthers opening goal in Game 2 to bring them back from a 1-0 deficit.

Now he took a high stick to the mouth from Boston defenseman Mason Lohrei. He was bloodied. Boston, too, would be thanks to Lohrei’s four-minute penalty.

Did Boston’s over-emotional edge this night lead to that penalty? Probably not. Lohrei just didn’t control his stick properly.

A minute apart, Vladimir Tarasenko and Carter Verhaeghe scored on the Panthers power play to make it 3-0. Brandon Montour scored early in the third period on another power play and it was over except for a Boston rally that briefly cut it to 4-2.

In the aftermath, Panthers coach Paul Maurice was asked about Marchand leaning into Barkov before that opening face-off.

“I don’t know what they’re discussing at the start,’’ Maurice said. “It’s not what Barky does for a living. I think he leads our team in hits. (But) he has a job. (Fighting) isn’t his.”

Go? Does Barkov want to go?

Sure, like all of the Panthers, he wants to go to the next round.



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