SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers finally defeated the Boston Bruins on Saturday and tightened the Stanley Cup Playoff race in the Eastern Conference.
Brandon Pirri scored the only goal in the shootout and the Panthers won 2-1 at BB&T Center.
"Obviously you’d like to get the two points in regulation, but, hey, we’re in a situation where we battled hard and we found a way to get two points," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "It keeps us in the race, and that’s what we want."
Jimmy Hayes scored in regulation for the Panthers (33-25-14), who moved to within four points of the Bruins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. Boston has a one-point lead over the Ottawa Senators, who defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 on Saturday.
Roberto Luongo made 26 saves in his second start since missing six games because of a shoulder injury. He stopped Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner in the shootout, prompting the tossing of about two-dozen plastic rats onto the ice when his glove save against Spooner clinched the victory.
"It was a playoff game, playoff intensity," Luongo said. "You could feel it. There was not a lot of room on the ice. We’re happy we got the win; you’d have liked to have got it in regulation, obviously, but we’ll take the two points and move on here."
Florida ended a nine-game losing streak against Boston, which was tied for the second-longest streak in the NHL. Boston has a 10-game winning streak against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Panthers hadn’t defeated the Bruins since a 6-2 win at BB&T Center on March 15, 2012.
"I don’t think it really matters who we’re playing against," Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. "I don’t think anybody knew that, to be honest with you. It just comes down to us playing strong hockey and coming out and getting points. We know where we are in relation to the standings and we knew we need to beat this team. We accomplished that tonight. It would have been nice to do it in regulation time, but we accomplished our goal tonight and it’s on to the next one."
Pirri scored in the shootout when he slowed almost to a halt and started stick-handling back and forth before slipping the puck between goalie Tuukka Rask's legs.
The goal came after Pirri, who has 14 goals in his past 19 games, missed two good scoring opportunities in overtime. Pirri was stopped on a 2-on-1 and later missed wide on a one-timer from long range.
"I would have liked to end it a little earlier, but it’s nice [Gallant] put me out there and I got to make up for it," Pirri said. "We would have liked to get two and not have a three-point game, but if we get two points every night we’re going to be in there. We did our job, and it’s just a matter of doing that for the rest of the year."
Florida is 8-10 in shootouts; Boston is 3-9.
"I really hope it doesn’t come to a shootout at the end," Rask said. "The shootout is not our strong part. We haven’t been able to get better at those. If it’s a do-or-die situation, we have to find a way to win."
Bergeron scored a power-play goal for the Bruins (36-24-12), and Rask made 26 saves. He entered the game having won his past 10 starts against the Panthers with an 0.99 goals-against average and three shutouts.
The Bruins lost their fourth in a row (0-2-2) after a 7-0-1 stretch.
"I think we can be satisfied with the effort," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "Everybody showed really good effort throughout the whole game. It was a really close, tight-checking game on both sides."
Dave Bolland missed a great chance to give Florida the lead with seven minutes remaining in regulation when he had an open net standing at the side of the goal. Bolland misfired on his shot, allowing Rask to make a sprawling stick save.
The Bruins had a great opportunity with about three minutes left when they caught the Panthers on a line change and David Pastrnak came in alone on Luongo. Pastrnak went past the goal line after a deke but couldn’t score.
Hayes, who was in the lineup after being a healthy scratch for Florida’s 3-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead 14:41 into the game. He was in front of the net when he scored after Bolland’s backhand pass from behind the net.
It was Hayes’ fourth goal in the five games after he was a healthy scratch.
"It’s perfect," Gallant said. "Jimmy played hard, he went to the net. Nobody wants to be a healthy scratch. He worked hard, he competed and he got that puck in the net. That’s what it’s all about."
Bergeron tied the game at 2:52 of the second period with a quick shot from the slot when he caught Luongo out of position. It was Bergeron's 20th goal, the sixth time he has scored at least 20 in an NHL season.
Forward Shawn Thornton, who joined Florida this season after spending seven years in Boston, appeared in his 600th NHL game. He became the third player to reach that number in the NHL and in the AHL, joining Jim Creighton and Dave Morrison.
Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr played his 1,540th game, tying longtime Bruins forward John Bucyk for the 12th place on the NHL list.
Although Boston center David Krejci took part in the morning skate, he missed his 14th consecutive game because of a knee injury.
Boston played the third period without defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who left the game with an undisclosed injury. Coach Claude Julien had no update after the game.
The Bruins end a three-game road trip Sunday against the Lightning.
Florida plays Tampa Bay on Tuesday to start a five-game road trip that will end at Boston on March 31 and is followed by a season-ending five-game homestand.
"The first one is going to be the important one, but it sets it up pretty good," Gallant said. "We’ve got 10 games left. We’ve got the next five on the road ... stay in the race. Stay close and keep battling."