Florida Panthers, Gustav Forsling oust Boston Bruins, return to conference finals

The Florida Panthers gave defenseman Gustav Forsling an eight-year, $46 million contract extension in March because of his solid, two-way play.

He showed that Friday night when he scored off a rebound with 93 seconds left in Game 6 to give the Panthers a 2-1, series-clinching victory against the Boston Bruins.

The Panthers are heading back to the Eastern Conference final after sending the Bruins home early for a second consecutive season.

Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman made a save on Anton Lundell's shot, but the puck came out to Forsling, whose shot went through Boston defenseman Parker Wotherspoon's legs and past the goaltender.

"I couldn't believe it went in," he told TNT after the game. "It was an amazing feeling and I'm just happy we got it done."

He showed clutch timing for the second time in the series. During the Panthers' 6-1 victory in Game 2, he beat Swayman on a shot with about two seconds left in the second period.

Forsling had a team-high five shots on goal and nine shot attempts on Friday.

Swayman finished with 26 saves in Game 6 while Sergei Bobrovsky had 22, including five on Bruins star David Pastrnak.

Aleksander Barkov saves game with big block

Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov, who won the Selke Trophy on Saturday as top defensive forward, saved the game with a key block on Pastrnak in the final seconds.

"He's the best player in the world right now," Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk told reporters about Barkov. "He's scored all the goals, he made all the great plays, he's had the puck all series, but I think that shot block shows the completion on his game."

The Panthers had to rally for Friday's win after Pavel Zacha had given the Bruins a 1-0 lead on a breakaway in the final minute of the first period for his first career playoff goal. Lundell tied the game in the second period.

Bruins captain Brad Marchand returned Friday after missing the last two games with an upper-body injury but didn't factor into the scoring.

"It's hard losing in that fashion in the last minute," he told reporters. "It just shows how much of a game of inches it is. They're a great team. You can't discredit them at all."

Florida ousted the record-setting Bruins last season, overcoming a 3-1 series deficit to win Game 7 in Boston. This time, the Panthers had home-ice advantage after moving into the Atlantic Division lead on the final game of the season. But once again, the Bruins were eliminated on home ice.

"Their goalie was good and we didn't beat him," coach Jim Montgomery told reporters. "We played too much in our end in the second and third period tonight."

What’s next for the Florida Panthers?

They head to the Eastern Conference final for the second consecutive season. They’ll face the New York Rangers and went 2-0-1 against the NHL’s top team. The series starts Wednesday at New York's Madison Square Garden.

The teams are meeting for just the second time in the playoffs. The Rangers won the previous meeting in 1997 in five games.

The Florida Panthers celebrate after a goal by defenseman Gustav Forsling (42) during the third period of Game 6.
The Florida Panthers celebrate after a goal by defenseman Gustav Forsling (42) during the third period of Game 6.

What’s next for the Boston Bruins?

Swayman proved in the playoffs that he can be a No. 1 goalie and the restricted free agent is up for a big raise. Does that allow the Bruins to keep together their netminding tandem with Linus Ullmark?

The Bruins could use an improvement in their center depth next season after never really replacing retired Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. They'll have to figure out how to get more scoring in the playoffs.

"You can't win every game 2-1," Montgomery said.

Their unrestricted free agents include forwards Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Pat Maroon and James van Riemsdyk, plus defensemen Matt Grzelcyk and Kevin Shattenkirk.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Panthers oust Bruins, will face Rangers in NHL conference finals