Panthers-Bruins playoff series finally got feisty. Expect that to continue

The emotions and intensity between the Florida Panthers and Boston Bruins had already hit a tipping point Wednesday before the grand finale began.

Ten players had been kicked out in a span of 90 seconds of game action midway through the third period of Florida’s 6-1 win in Game 2 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoffs series when Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk pointed to Boston’s David Pastrnak on the opposing bench.

It didn’t take much to realize what was going to happen next.

On the ensuing shift, Tkachuk and Pastrnak dropped their gloves near center ice — with Tkachuk laying down a few big right hooks as both tumbled to the ice.

“Man, you’re going to see that on the highlights over and over again,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “I think it’s a good thing. You get two elite offensive players. Chucky’s a 100-point player. Pastrnak’s just this brilliant player, but it’s the playoffs. They each have their team. They’ve got their brothers in the room. It’s a little spicy out there and they want to go. I think it was awesome. Sorry if anyone’s offended by that concept. I don’t care. I thought it was awesome.”

Added Tkachuk: “I have tons of respect for him. ... Just to see us out there battling at center ice in a playoff game, I think it’s pretty cool. It’s good for hockey. We’re both emotional guys that are leaders for our team that really just want to show that we will do whatever it takes to win. We weren’t going out there to play Patty Cake or anything. We were going out there to have some fun in the fight and try to land some punches. But yeah, tons of respect for him.”

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It was only a matter of time before the series got to this point, when the heat of the moment between two heated rivals would overtake a portion of the series.

It finally happened in the final 10 minutes of Game 2 — and don’t expect things to mellow any time soon as the series shifts to Boston’s TD Garden for Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Sunday.

Florida and Boston are tied 1-1 in this second-round series, one year after the Panthers rallied from a 3-1 deficit to upend the Bruins in seven games in the opening round of the players.

“That’s playoff hockey,” said Panthers forward Steven Lorentz, who scored the first of Florida’s six unanswered goals after falling behind 1-0 in the first period.

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That third period — really, that two-minute, 17-second span in the third period — epitomized the feisty nature that was expected to come in this series.

Florida was already up 4-1 when the first fracas began, with the Bruins’ Pat Maroon and the Panthers’ Nick Cousins getting the first round of misconducts 10:25 into the third period. Aleksander Barkov scored on the power play 27 seconds later to push the Panthers’ lead to 5-1.

Eleven seconds after that, following Boston’s first shot on goal of the frame, the Panthers’ Oliver Ekman-Larsson was called for a cross-check before a full skirmish broke out. Four more players — Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov and Eetu Luostarinen, as well as Boston’s Justin Brazeau and Trent Frederic — were sent to their respective dressing rooms.

And then one final full-on scrum came a couple minutes later after Brandon Montour scored a short-handed goal for the Panthers to cap scoring with 8:02 left to play. Yet another four players — Florida’s Sam Reinhart and Niko Mikkola, Boston’s Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy — left the game.

That set the stage for the Tkachuk-Pastrnak fight to end the third-period festivities in a game that was far out of reach.

“This is what playoffs is about,” Marchand, Boston’s captain, told reporters after the game. “This is where rivalries are built — in the playoffs. With last year, it kind of started there. They play a physical game, and we’re able to do that as well. It creates a lot of emotion and adrenaline. A lot of really good battles, guys are competing hard out there. You can see both teams want to win. They’re leaving it all out there.

“It’s going to be a physical series, we know that. That’s what fans love. It’s exciting. And it creates rivalries.”

And there’s no doubt about it that the bad blood will carry over to Friday.

“It’s awesome for the sport,” Maurice said. “A whole lot of people in South Florida who maybe never thought of hockey as their thing are having a big night tonight because the Panthers won. So we’re going to get up there [for Game 3], it’s going to be crazy, the building’s going to be rocking, they’re going to drop the puck and it’s going to be physical, it’s going to be fast, it’s the greatest sport on Earth.

“Why wouldn’t you come to the game?”

Notables from Game 2

Barkov (two goals, two assists) and Reinhart (four assists) are the first duo in Panthers history to each log at least four points in the same playoff game in franchise history. They are also the first players in franchise history to produce a point at even strength, on the power play and shorthanded in the same postseason game.

Reinhart’s four assists are a single-game postseason franchise record.

Montour’s three points (one goal, two assists) tied Robert Svehla (three assists on April 17, 1997, against the New York Rangers) for the most points by a defenseman in a postseason game in club history.

Florida’s 15 shots on goal allowed were the fewest in a postseason game in club history.