The Boston Bruins celebrate their goal against the Florida Panthers...

The Boston Bruins celebrate their goal against the Florida Panthers during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, March 26, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. Credit: AP/Rhona Wise

SUNRISE, Fla. — Pavel Zacha scored the winning goal with 2:21 remaining in the game and the Boston Bruins defeated the Florida Panthers 4-3 on Tuesday night.

“It gives us confidence in three weeks when it starts for real,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said, referring to the playoffs. “We were down three times, we kept coming back. So we can believe in our process, believe in our identity and keep playing.”

The Bruins also broke a tie with Florida atop the Atlantic Division and now hold a two-point lead although the Panthers have played one less game. Boston is also in second place in the Eastern Conference with 99 points, one point behind the New York Rangers, who beat the Philadelphia Flyers 6-5 in overtime on Tuesday night.

“I thought it was a good effort by our group,” Bruins captain Brad Marchand said. “It was a playoff-type game there, the teams played hard, they didn't really have any holes, so it was a good character win.”

Charlie McAvoy, David Pastrnak and Trent Frederic also scored for the Bruins. Jeremy Swayman made 18 saves, and also had an assist on Federic's tying goal that came on the power play with less than five minutes to play.

Evan Rodrigues, Sam Reinhart and Carter Verhaeghe scored for the Panthers while Sergei Bobrovsky made 17 saves. Rodrigues scored just 27 seconds into the game, and three times the Panthers took a one-goal lead.

Florida lost for the fifth time in its last six games, going 1-4-1 since losing star defenseman Aaron Ekblad to a lower-body injury on March 9.

The Florida Panthers celebrate center Evan Rodrigues (17) goal against...

The Florida Panthers celebrate center Evan Rodrigues (17) goal against Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, March 26, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. Credit: AP/Rhona Wise

“It was a really good hockey game and you want to win it,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “You get the lead like that and you want to be able to close it out, but suffering is sometimes good. It's good for you to put that much effort in and come away with nothing.”

Florida captain Aleksander Barkov picked up an assist 27 seconds into his return from a five-game absence from a lower-body injury.

Panthers star defenseman Gustav Forsling also returned from an illness while Ekblad remains day-to-day.

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Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett (9) and Boston Bruins defenseman...

Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett (9) and Boston Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm (27) fight during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, March 26, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. Credit: AP/Rhona Wise

Bruins: Visit Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.

Panthers: Host NY Islanders on Thursday night.

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