Linus Ullmark was the center of attention late in the Bruins' 6-2 win over the Panthers in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series on Sunday afternoon.
For starters, the veteran goalie played fantastic in net and made a playoff career-high 41 saves for his third victory of the series. He also found himself in the middle of the action with three minutes left in the third period.
Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk, who has played the role of superstar forward, pest and instigator this series, got tangled up with Ullmark in the crease. This altercation nearly sparked a line brawl. Toward the end, Tkachuk grabbed Ullmark and the two wanted to fight. Ullmark even took off his goalie helmet and glove. But the referees didn't let them fight.
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What was Ullmark thinking during that whole sequence?
“Things happen so fast and so quickly,” Ullmark told reporters after Tuesday's practice. “Then you have everybody just trying to stick up for each other, and I tried to do the same there at the end as well. It’s not something that I’m actively seeking out, especially late in the games like that. If it was a 3-2 game, I wouldn’t have done anything. Now it’s 5-2, it’s a little different feeling to it, I would say. It’s kind of hard to explain, but if you’re up 5-2, there’s no need for stupid stuff like that. If it's a 3-2 game, you don't want to cause any power plays to the opposition."
Ullmark noted that some of the reaction from teammates to his incident with Tkachuk was that of surprise.
"Mostly positive. Probably a lot of, not confusion, but surprise as well," Ullmark said when asked about his teammates' reaction. “Obviously, it’s the first time that I’ve ever even dropped the gloves. First (10-minute misconduct) as well, I think, in my career. My job is to stop pucks and not do stuff like that, so I think that’s where most of the surprise came from."
The Panthers are not more talented than the Bruins and their roster isn't as deep, either. Florida has tried to play extra physical with Boston and get under the skin of the Presidents' Trophy winners. So far, it hasn't worked out for the Panthers because the Bruins have been very disciplined.
Ullmark hasn't been surprised by the increased physicality through four games.
"It's just the playoffs, everyone plays physical," Ullmark said. "It doesn't matter what happens out there, I'm just part of the game as well. There are going to be guys who crash the net a little harder, try to whack the pucks out of your glove and cause mayhem to try to get those dirty goals. We do the same thing, so it's nothing new. It's something expected."