BOSTON -- Linus Ullmark has been the Bruins' most consistent and most outstanding player all season, but the veteran goalie made a colossal mistake in overtime of Game 5 that has given the Florida Panthers new life in their first-round playoff series.
The Bruins faced deficits of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 in Wednesday night's matchup at TD Garden, but they battled back in the third period and forced OT.
It took only six minutes and five seconds for the Panthers to score the winning goal, and they did so in stunning fashion.
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The puck was sent all the way down the ice into the Bruins' zone and Ullmark went behind the net to play it. His attempt to clear the puck failed and it wound up in front of the net, where Panthers superstar left wing Matthew Tkachuk was ready to pounce. Tkachuk scored on a backhand shot and gave the Panthers a 4-3 victory that sends the series back to FLA Live Arena for Game 6 on Friday night.
What happened on that Ullmark turnover and the ensuing sequence that led to Florida's goal?
"I tried to send it out into the corner a little bit and bypass him," Ullmark said. "He makes a good play and catches it, and the rest is history."
The Bruins went into scramble mode after Ullmark coughed up the puck. Ullmark tried to get back into position but the puck hit his skate and he had no chance at stopping Tkachuk's shot.
"You just try to get back to the net, and then he sends it in. I try not to put myself in a position where it can bank off me," Ullmark explained. "Unfortunately, it hits my skate and it ends up in the wrong hands. From there, it's kind of a situation where I couldn't get back into position. He takes it wide and he puts it in."
What could have been done differently on that play?
"I don't know. I'll have to look at it tonight or tomorrow and see what I could've done better," Ullmark said. "Maybe I should've rimmed it or went up the middle. It's hard to say. This is what happened. It's all about having the mind of a goldfish."
Ullmark won 40 of the 47 games he started during the regular season. He won the goalie triple crown by leading the league in wins (40), save percentage (.938) and GAA (1.89). He also led all netminders in 5-on-5 save percentage and goals saved above expected. He was the best goalie in the league all season and his performance was remarkably consistent.
So it's pretty surprising to see a game end in that kind of fashion. However, it's not the first time the Bruins have lost on a goaltending mistake in overtime of a playoff game.
Bruins fans will remember Tim Thomas putting himself out of position on Alex Burrows' winning goal in overtime of Game 2 in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. The goal gave the Vancouver Canucks a 2-0 series lead. (Skip to the 2:30 mark of the video to see the play.)
The Bruins, and Thomas, rebounded by winning four of the next five games to secure the franchise's first championship in 39 years. The situation 12 years later is obviously quite different. The Bruins are only in the first round and they still have a 3-2 series lead. But just like at that moment, they need to rally around their goalie and regain their focus for the next game.
"He's been a rock for us all year. He's given us a chance to win every time he's out there. He can't be too hard on himself," Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron said. "We're a team and it's about what we do on the ice as a unit of six and go from there. You win and you lose as a team, and it's another example tonight. It is what it is. He's a tremendous goalie, probably going to win the Vezina Trophy this year. We're all there for each other. Heads up for everyone."
The challenge for Ullmark is not letting this play linger and impact his performance the rest of the series. He played fantastic in Games 3 and 4 in Florida last weekend, making 70 saves on 74 shots (.945 save percentage) to propel the Bruins to a pair of victories. They'll need a similarly strong performance Friday night in Game 6 to close out the series.
"I thought that was the best play. That's it. It ended up being the worst play," Ullmark said of his costly mistake in Game 5. "But it doesn't matter from now on. That happened. We can all think about what I could have done or should have done ... This is the life of hockey. That's the game sometimes. You can't take anything for granted."