Never has scoring the first goal been more important than it is now in the National Hockey League, where goals have been so hard to come by. The teams that score first win the games much more often than not.
The Boston Bruins scored the first goal against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at the FleetCenter. The Bruins also scored the second, third and fourth goals.
With a 4-0 lead and playing at home, the outcome should have been a lock for Boston. But when the dust finally cleared, Florida had rallied to earn a 5-5 overtime tie that left Boston head coach Pat Burns fuming.
"In hockey you have to expect the unexpected," Burns said. "(Thursday night) was the unexpected, and we didn't expect it. It was a tie, but it feels like a loss. I'm very disappointed. It's unacceptable the way we played. I can't accept it, and I won't accept it."
The draw, pulled from the jaws of victory, kept Boston one game under .500 at 6-7-5.
Anson Carter scored his first two goals of the season to give the Bruins their four-goal lead just 6:32 into the second period.
"At 4-0 I felt pretty good," Burns said. "They were getting a lot of shots, but they were from the outside. Then they started getting them from the middle and started smacking us around."
Oleg Kvasha took a Robert Svehla pass off of the right boards and beat Bruins goalie Byron Dafoe to get the Panthers on the scoreboard at 15:57. Florida's Dave Gagner cut Boston's lead to 4-2 with 0.9 seconds remaining in the second period.
The Bruins thought they had gotten a comfort zone back when defenseman Grant Ledyard celebrated his 37th birthday with his second goal of the season at 2:23 of the third period. But the Panthers got goals from Scott Mellanby, Mark Parrish and Svehla in a span of 2:21 to forge the tie.
"There is character on other clubs, too," Burns said. "No one is going to mail you two points because you're the Boston Bruins and one of the Original Six. We have to realize that what made us successful last season was being able to play with a lead."
Keenan gets 500th on shutout
DENVER -- Garth Snow got the shutout, Mike Keenan got the puck.
"I'm really proud to be part of that milestone," Snow said after the Vancouver Canucks beat the Colorado Avalanche, 5-0, for Keenan's 500th coaching victory. "It's a tribute to his coaching and his longevity."
Keenan's tied former Montreal coach Toe Blake for fifth place on the career list. Only Scott Bowman (1,062), Al Arbour (781), Dick Irvin (693) and Billy Reay (542) have more victories than Keenan and Blake.
"It means a lot," said Keenan, now with his fifth NHL team. "I'm very proud of the accomplishment. As I said earlier this week, it means I've been around too long."
Snow made 35 saves for his second shutout of the season. Keenan wanted his goalie to keep the puck, but Snow wouldn't accept it.
"No, he deserves it," Snow said of Keenan. "Five hundred wins, that's unbelievable."
Gretzky plays Forum finale
INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- On the night of his final game at the Forum, Wayne Gretzky waxed nostalgic -- during the game, as well as after it.
"I found my myself daydreaming in between shifts, thinking of all the fun times here and how hard everyone in the organization worked to sell hockey here," Gretzky said after the New York Rangers beat the Los Angeles Kings, 5-1.
"When we got up 4-1, it was one of the first times in my career that I wasn't thinking about my next shift and what I was going to do on it."
The Kings' second sellout crowd of the season turned out to watch Gretzky make his final appearance in the same building where he broke Gordie Howe's career goal-scoring record with his 802nd goal on March 23, 1994 as a member of the Kings.
An ugly scene took place with 7:21 remaining and Los Angeles well on the way to its sixth consecutive loss. Kings enforcer Matt Johnson deliberately tried to injure Jeff Beukeboom and received a match penalty from referee Rob Shick.
Ian Laperriere went tumbling into the end boards behind the Rangers net after a check from Beukeboom, who in turn was blindsided by a shot to the head from Johnson. Beukeboom collapsed to the ice face-first and was still wobbly when he left the rink.
"I know Matty and he's a good guy," Gretzky said. "Obviously, it was frustration on his part. He'd probably be the first guy to tell you he wished he didn't do it. But I'm sure Colin Campbell and his people are going to be very tough on him."
Around the rinks
Jay Pandolfo scored on a back-hander in close with 1:23 left in overtime to give the Devils a 3-2 victory over the Hurricanes. The winner came just 10 seconds after the Hurricanes killed off the Devils' eighth power play. . . . Eric Houde and Jonas Hoglund each scored his first goal of the season in the third period to lift the Canadiens over the Flames, 4-3. The goals erased a 3-2 Calgary lead and gave goaltender Jeff Hackett the win in his first start with Montreal, which had lost four in a row. . . . Stu Barnes scored twice during a five-goal second period and Martin Straka added a goal and two assists as the Penguins beat the Lightning, 5-1. Earlier in the day Lightning winger Andrei Nazarov was suspended by the league for seven games and fined $1,000 for cross-checking Colorado defenseman Cam Russell. . . . Cliff Ronning scored with 38.9 seconds left and the Predators came back from an early two-goal deficit to beat the Blues, 3-2.