Panthers coach Paul Maurice brings the intensity — and profanity — in Game 5



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SUNRISE, Fla. — Even the trainers were transfixed.

When the first intermission didn’t do its job to reconfigure the Florida Panthers’ game to what Paul Maurice expects from his Stanley Cup contender, the veteran coach waited for the first TV timeout of the second period to sound the alarm in a very loud and succinct way.

Maurice let the F-bombs fly.

“He was just trying to get the point through to us that we’ve got to play harder, we’ve got to just play our game,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “We were kind of sitting back and just watching what was happening.”

“Forecheck harder, move our feet,” said center Kevin Stenlund, translating Maurice’s message in a more G-rated manner. “I think our feet were a little slow today.”

“Up the intensity a little bit,” added top-liner Sam Reinhart. “Quicker to support, want that puck a little more. Think it turned our game around.”

If only coach scream-a-thons always worked like this, but 11 seconds after Maurice stopped hurling expletives and caught his breath, Reinhart tied the score. Unfortunately for the Panthers, four minutes later, Charlie McAvoy would break that tie, and in the greatest form of irony after Game 4’s controversial upheld tying goal for Florida, the Panthers lost a challenge of their own and went on to a 2-1 loss to the Boston Bruins that will cause a Game 6 and second attempt to close them out Friday night in Boston.

“I never felt like we got to the way we look,” Maurice said. “They were real fast. We were trying to move the puck a certain way that doesn’t really suit our style of game. They had a good first period, but the game’s there. It was a 2-1 game that I think if both teams hit their empty nets or the stuff they missed the net on, maybe we lose, but we lose 8-7. Like the goalies were really good.”

The Panthers came out flat. They were playing east-west. Falling down. They just looked unusually off.

So Maurice used the TV timeout to demonstratively wake his gents up, then pointed to the center-ice scoreboard to remind his players they were only down a goal or that they were being outshot an unacceptable 17-7 at home — or both.

“I don’t know the exact words of the message,” Maurice said. “I wasn’t mad at them. I understood what they were going through. I just thought they needed some profanity in their life, and I brought some. I don’t excel in a lot of things in life, but f— me, am I good at that?”

Maurice said he felt the Panthers were “grinding gears” at the time.

“I think we have a handful of things that we’re really, really good at,” Maurice said. “We come to the rink and that’s all we spend our time talking about that when we’re doing them we’re a good hockey team, (and) everything flows from it. It’s the giving tree, and we didn’t have those four or five things as our focus.”

Now, Maurice credited the Bruins. They got their sticks on pucks, blocked 21 shots and did all the hard things a desperate team that didn’t want their season to end needed to do to extend a playoff series.

But other than Sergei Bobrovsky, who was excellent, and Reinhart, who had eight of the Panthers’ 29 shots (including one with five seconds left he wished he could hit “the pause button” on) and 18 shot attempts, the Panthers didn’t play a great game.

“You’d like one or two those to go for (Reinhart) because then you people would have talked about the game that he had more,” Maurice said. “I understand why you can’t. You gotta focus on the Bruins. They won. But Sam Reinhart did some freakishly good things, like high-end stuff, in tonight’s game. It didn’t go (other than his one goal), so he won’t get recognized for it.”

Maurice put on a show, almost a standup routine after this loss, blaming it on good buddy Pete DeBoer, the Dallas Stars coach who’s a win away from eliminating Colorado and advancing to the Western Conference final. He said DeBoer chirped him earlier Tuesday for having super-long press conferences because the Panthers keep winning, so out of spite, he kept it to a concise 10 minutes after this one.

He called his performative ways in the postgame chat with reporters “energy from a game you lose. The world wants you to drag your ass in here, and I refuse to do it. I didn’t like our game tonight. I’m not lying, but I drank a lot of coffee before the game, so this is what you get.”

Jeremy Swayman was outstanding, making 28 saves, including five on four scoreless power plays for Florida and another four short-handed. The Carter Verhaeghe–Sam Bennett–Matthew Tkachuk line was not outstanding, on the ice for both Boston goals by Morgan Geekie and McAvoy.

“They would be in some ways an identity line in that we do a handful of things really well,” Maurice said of Bennett’s line. “As long as those are the four or five things we come to do at the rink, then everything falls into place. I didn’t think anything fell into place for them tonight.”

The turning point of the game was the McAvoy goal. In Game 4, the tying goal by Bennett came after he cross-checked Charlie Coyle on top of Swayman. Bruins coach Jim Montgomery challenged for goalie interference. It looked like a no-brainer overturn. But after a long review, and still inexplicably to many who have watched hockey for a long time, the goal was upheld and Barkov would soon thereafter skate up Main Street for the winning goal.

So, naturally, Tuesday night it was Maurice’s turn to challenge goalie interference when he felt Danton Heinen skated into the crease, clipped Bobrovsky’s right pad and stick and didn’t allow him to set. The NHL’s Situation Room disagreed, counting the goal and dinging the Panthers with a penalty kill for the incorrect challenge.

Maurice said sarcastically at that point, four minutes after going bonkers on the bench, he still wanted to be part of the game and didn’t “mind if I’m wrong taking it between the eyes on something like that. I felt, ‘F— it, I’m trying it.’”

There will be two days off before the Panthers get another opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference final for the second year in a row. They have won five consecutive playoff games in Boston, so they shouldn’t be intimidated.

But this is clearly not the ideal way to move on, and Maurice knows it.

Nevertheless, one more dose of sarcasm from the fiery coach who reminded us all that Brad Marchand has missed the past two games with a presumed concussion.

“It’s gonna be an absolute barnburner in there,” he said. “There’ll be 18,000 cameras on the morning skate just to see how many sips of water bottle Brad Marchand takes. There’s going to be some high-end investigative journalism. So guys go home and get a nap because you’ve got some s— to do in a couple days.”

Mic dropped, and Maurice walked off into the humid South Florida night.

(Photo: Joel Auerbach / Getty Images)





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