SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Zdeno Chara picked a great time to score a milestone goal.
Chara scored his 200th NHL goal and added an assist to help the Bruins beat the Florida Panthers 7-3 on Saturday night and clinch a berth in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Earlier in the day, the Bruins announced the 42-year-old Chara signed a one-year, $2 million contract extension.
The goal was his first since Feb. 18th at San Jose.
“Anytime you reach a milestone it’s special,” Chara said. “I’m not one of those guys that’s going to score another 100. It’s a pretty decent number for a guy who wasn’t supposed to play the game. It’s a big win for us to clinch the playoffs.”
Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand also had a goal and an assist, and Steve Kampfer, Karson Kuhlman and Noel Acciari had the other goals for Boston. Danton Heinen had two assists and Jaroslav Halak stopped 31 shots and also had an assist as the Bruins won their fourth straight.
Chara is in his 13th season with Boston and 21st in the NHL. He is the second-oldest active NHL player, behind Pittsburgh’s Matt Cullen.
“I don’t care how long you played. It feels good to score a goal,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We’re all happy for Z.”
Vincent Trocheck, Mike Hoffman and Jayce Hawryluk scored for the Panthers, and Sam Montembeault finished with 32 saves.
The Bruins took control with five goals in the second period.
With Boston leading 2-1, Chara’s shot from the high slot beat Montembeault at 5:05. Kuhlman made it 4-1 as he grabbed the puck at the red line, skated in, and fired a shot in at 6:38 for his second career goal.
Hoffman grabbed a loose puck in the neutral zone, skated in and fired the puck past Halak at 10:04 to pull Florida to 4-2.
Kampfer and Pastrnak scored 48 seconds apart to stretch the Bruins’ lead to 6-2 with 3:24 to go in the middle period.
“We beat ourselves, 24 turnovers, and their first four goals came off our sticks on turnovers,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “It was stupidity and bad turnovers that ended up in the back of our net.”
Trocheck scored a power-play goal at 3:57 of the third to get the Panthers within three.
Bergeron’s empty-netter with 26.8 left capped the scoring.
“It’s one of those things where we know we have to be better and we know that’s not good enough especially against good teams,” Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said.
Florida’s Aleksander Barkov landed face down on the ice after a collision with Chara with 3:04 left in the game but left under his own power.
Acciari gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead 2:23 in. David Backes passed from behind the net to Acciari, who was alone in front and his shot got past Montembeault.
Marchand doubled the lead when he took a feed from Bergeron from behind the net and shot the puck in from the low slot at 28 seconds of the second period.
The Panthers answered 24 seconds later as Hawryluk one-timed the puck in from in front.
NOTES: Chara is the 22nd defenseman in NHL history to score 200 goals. … Bruins D Connor Clifton recorded his first NHL point on Acciari’s goal. … Marchand has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in his past 13 games. … The Bruins reached 100 points for the second straight season. … Yandle played his 900th NHL game.
Bruins: At Tampa Bay on Monday night.
Panthers: At Toronto on Monday night.
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