SUNRISE, FL – The Bruins wanted to close out their only road trip through Florida this season with authority, and they did just that.
The Bruins took an early lead and didn’t give the Florida Panthers much to work with as the game progressed in a no-frills 3-1 victory at the BB&T Center in a Sunday afternoon matinee.
Less than eight minutes into the game the Bruins were on the board when Milan Lucic snapped home a shot moving into the slot on a set play after David Krejci won a draw against Marcel Goc in the offensive zone. Six minutes later the Bruins extended it to a 2-0 lead on the flashiest goal anybody will ever see Zdeno Chara score over the course of his NHL career.
Brad Marchand hit Chara with a backhanded saucer pass from the side boards, and Chara executed a dangling 360 spin move as he swooped toward the net and unloaded a top shelf backhanded shot. Florida goaltender Jacob Markstrom had no shot at stopping the puck, and really no NHL goaltender probably would with a 6-foot-9 beat bearing down on them while also capable of elite offensive moves.
The Panthers cut the lead in half two minutes later when breakdowns by the fourth line and the Andrew Ference/Adam McQuaid pairing led to a wide Tomas Kopecky goal all alone in front.
Boston managed to tack on an insurance power play in the second period, but it was more than a little unconventional. The score arrived after a largely ineffective man advantage, and featured a goal from a player not normally on the PP in Chris Kelly. But Daniel Paille fanned on a shot inside the blue line and the puck slid right to Kelly for a wide open shot in front. The goal snapped a 14-game scoreless streak to start the season for the third line center.
Daniel Paille added the empty net goal in the final minutes of the third period to give the Bruins their first three goal lead of the season.
GOLD STAR: Zdeno Chara scored one of the most beautiful goals you’ll see a Bruins player get all season, and also logged a team-high 23:43 of ice time along with four blocked shots and three registered hits. The 6-foot-9 defenseman didn’t have the best open to the 2013 NHL regular season in all of its abridged oddity, but Chara has really turned it up a notch during the month of February. Did we mention he also shut down all of Florida’s best offensive players as well? The one thing that takes the cake, though, was the spinning 360-degree dangle to the net he turned into a top shelf backhanded with little room to operate by the net. That’s just an elite offensive move that requires crazy athleticism and coordination from a big man.
BLACK EYE: The Florida Panthers are one big black eye in a game where they were outclassed by the Bruins, and needed a great individual performance from rookie goaltender Jacob Markstrom to save their bacon. They let the Bruins run a play off a face-off win in their defensive zone, they couldn’t even muster a single shot in four minutes’ worth of power play time courtesy of Milan Lucic and they have gone 0-for-17 on the PP while losing five straight games on home ice. And you thought the Bruins’ power play problems were bad? The Panthers are just a bad hockey club. Period.
TURNING POINT: For the Bruins it was weathering the storm at the end of the second period and beginning of the third period. Milan Lucic was off for a double-minor of cross-checking and roughing after the refs missed a Mike Weaver cross-check on the power forward from behind into the boards. An incensed Lucic drove Weaver into the ice when the refs didn’t protect him with a penalty, and the Bruins were going on the PK clinging to a two-goal lead. The NHL’s best penalty kill unit out-shot the Panthers PP by a 3-0 margin and Boston was off and running despite 17 shots in the third period from the Panthers. Florida had essentially had its heart ripped out when they couldn’t generate anything on the man advantage.
HONORABLE MENTION: Chris Kelly scored his first goal of the season in his 15th game to snap the goalless drought, won 7-of-9 face-offs and finished as an even player in 15:22 of ice time for a third line that just keeps getting progressively better. That night’s work also included a whopping 6:07 of shorthanded ice time as Kelly as the rest of the PK crew deserved one of the game pucks after it was all over.
BY THE NUMBERS: 3 – the third period of Sunday’s win in their 15th game of the season represented the first time this year that the Bruins have held a three-goal lead over their opponents.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “"My game is simple. That’s not my priority. But I was glad and happy we got the lead with that goal." –Zdeno Chara talking about his highlight reel spin-o-rama move against the Florida Panthers in the first period that ultimately served as the winning goal.