BOSTON -- It wasn’t a complete, global domination of a downtrodden Panthers team, but it did look like the Bruins have finally started to go about their business again.
The B’s scored goals in each of the first two periods and calmed down defensively to give the Bruins a 3-0 victory over the Panthers at TD Garden, and snap their season-worst four-game losing streak.
Jaromir Jagr started things off in the first period with a nice strong play off a turnover near the side boards, and curled toward the net in the slot before rifling a shot over the glove hand of Jacob Markstrom. Bruins rookie Carl Soderberg picked up his first-career NHL point with an assist on Jagr’s goal after both he and Chris Kelly had worked to keep the puck in the offensive zone as well.
The rest of the first period was uneventful, but the Bruins poured on the offense in the middle 20 minutes while out-shooting the Panthers by a 21-10 margin. The waves of offense finally produced another goal as Dougie Hamilton snapped off his fifth goal of the season on a shot from the right point through a Gregory Campbell screen in front of the net.
The rest was up to Tuukka Rask, who responded well on Sunday after blaming himself for Saturday’s loss to the Penguins with some soft goals allowed. This time he didn’t allow a single goal to get past, and was perfect making 28 saves against a Florida attack that admittedly doesn’t have too many teeth at this point in the season.
Brad Marchand added an empty-net score for his team-leading 18th goal of the season in the final minutes of the third period.
GOLD STAR: Tuukka Rask was incredibly critical of himself after Saturday’s loss to the Penguins, and showed his character again on Sunday by making 28 saves while shutting down the Florida Panthers. It was his fourth shutout of the season and came at a time when he needs to be every bit at the top of his game as everybody else among the Bruins roster. Rask was at his best in the first two periods making most of his 20 saves prior to Dougie Hamilton pounding in Boston’s second goal of the game to give the Bruins just a little bit of breathing room. There were a ton of odd-man rushes or breakaways, but the Panthers were getting good action on tips and redirects with plenty of traffic in front of the net. Rask was seeing the puck extremely well for the entire game.
BLACK EYE: Alex Petrovic finished a minus-3 for the Florida Panthers with no shots and two giveaways and appeared to be one of the weak defensive links that the Bruins were attempting to exploit throughout the game. The Panthers have a young and mistake-prone defensive corps and a young goaltender, so the NHL’s 30th ranked defense will give every team ample chances to score goals. The Bruins finally broke through in the second and third period to give themselves a fine shutout win, but must also find more effective ways to finish plays given that a downtrodden Florida team isn’t a good barometer for how well the Bruins are playing.
TURNING POINT: The game didn’t really loosen up until Dougie Hamilton pulled through with a goal from the right point more than midway through the second period to give Boston some insurance. The Bruins were pouring on the offense in the second period by outshooting Florida by a 21-10 margin, but they hadn’t been able to break through despite the sustained pressure. Then the fourth line guys in Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton created some energy by shooting and buzzing to create turnovers in the offensive end of the ice, and Gregory Campbell moved in front for a great screen with Hamilton shooting. Jacob Markstrom didn’t see the shot until it was far too late, and the Bruins had their insurance score.
HONORABLE MENTION: Dougie Hamilton appeared to be in a battle for a starting spot in a crowded field of Boston defensemen candidates to start the playoffs, but he came through with a strong game against the Panthers on Sunday afternoon. He scored the insurance goal to snap an eight game goalless streak and also finished with five shots on net in 19:45 of largely mistake-free ice time. That is the exact kind of airtight performance with some offensive production that the Bruins coaching staff is looking for, and the offensive skills are really needed for a Bruins that sometimes has trouble finishing off plays. It’s making his argument much stronger to get the call and be among the lucky six when the playoffs begin in less than two weeks.
BY THE NUMBERS: 118 – the number of game-winning goals for Jaromir Jagr after Sunday afternoon’s first period game-winner over the Florida Panthers, which ties him with Phil Esposito for tops all-time in the NHL.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think it could be nice if we could change jerseys. We’d be more honored to get something from them. It was a special thing.” –Chris Kelly, on giving local police, first responders and marathon runners the “shirts off their back” in a Bruins jersey ceremony that’s normally for season ticket holders on Fan Appreciation Night. The season ticket holders came up with the idea to award the jerseys to public safety personnel and authorities that played such a vital role for the city of Boston this week.