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Matthew Tkachuk, David Pastrnak engage in fisticuffs in Game 2

SportsMatthew Tkachuk, David Pastrnak engage in fisticuffs in Game 2

Boston and Florida turned up the heat in Game 2 of their second-round Stanley Cup playoff series on Wednesday with a heavyweight bout between stars Matthew Tkachuk and David Pastrnak.

The visiting Bruins — who entered with a 1-0 series lead — were trailing 6-1 with just over seven minutes remaining in the third period when top winger Pastrnak and Panthers forward Tkachuk dropped the gloves in an uncharacteristic fight that Pastrnak was ready to accept when Tkachuk agreed to the challenge.

“I’m not afraid of him, to be honest,” Pastrnak said. “I can take a punch.”

The fisticuffs actually appeared to be approved by Bruins coach Jim Montgomery. Cameras showed Montgomery seemingly giving Pastrnak the nod to mix it up with Tkachuk shortly before the two went after one another.

Montgomery denied he offered explicit permission, but he wasn’t upset over Pastrnak getting physical in the Bruins’ eventual 6-1 loss that tied the series as it moves to Boston for Game 3 on Friday.

“I’m really proud of Pasta,” Montgomery said. “He just went out there and fought. You like your hockey players to be competitors.”

What Montgomery didn’t appreciate was the added hits he thought Tkachuk got in as Pastrnak went to the ice.

“That’s not part of the game to me,” Montgomery said.

For his part, Florida coach Paul Maurice felt the scrap was a positive.

“I thought it was awesome,” Maurice said.

Both Tkachuk and Pastrnak received penalties for fighting and a game misconduct. But as Pastrnak blatantly admitted after the final whistle, “The game was over.”

It was a difficult night all around for Boston, which sustained its most lopsided loss of the postseason. The Bruins started well, with Charlie Coyle offering them a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes. But it was all Florida from there, as the Panthers scored six unanswered goals to secure their first victory of the series.

Boston had been enjoying sensational goaltending by Jeremy Swayman throughout the playoffs — he entered Game 2 with a 5-2 record, .955 save percentage and 1.42 goals against average — but Montgomery pulled Swayman early in the third after he allowed the fourth Panthers goal. Swayman, who hadn’t given up more than two goals in a playoff contest to that point, was replaced by Linus Ullmark in his first action since Game 2 of Boston’s first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Montgomery didn’t think the downturn had to do with Swayman, though, as much as the Bruins having played their starter in six of seven games through a first-round series that ended Saturday and again in Monday’s Game 1 — during which Swayman was exceptional in making 38 stops in the win.

“The workload played into our effort tonight,” Montgomery said. “We didn’t have juice tonight. Swayman was terrific. I thought about taking him out at 3-1, and then when the fourth goal went in, I was like, ‘I’m taking him out now.'”

Ullmark finished with eight saves on 10 shots to Swayman’s 19 stops of 23 shots.

It has been the Bruins’ habit not to announce a starting goaltender prior to games in the postseason. It’s unlikely Montgomery will break with tradition prior to Game 3.

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