SUNRISE, Fla – The Bruins came, they saw, and they conquered Tim Thomas and the Florida Panthers.
Some of the suspense was taken out of the proceedings when the Bruins scored two early goals against the 39-year-old goaltender and a shoddy Florida defense, but they also managed to tack on in the closing minute of the third period for a 3-2 victory at a quarter-filled BB&T Center.
Reilly Smith scored his first goal as a member of the Bruins with less than a minute to go as he back-handed a dribbling shot through Thomas’ pads for the winner.
Daniel Paille opened the scoring less than four minutes into the first period when he took a long stretch pass from Dennis Seidenberg, and snapped a shot over the stick-side shoulder of Thomas. The Bruins doubled their advantage and ended an 0-for-12 power play dry spell when Dougie Hamilton blasted a high-center post shot through a Zdeno Chara screen and past Thomas.
The Panthers managed to climb back into it in a gritty second period where they clogged up the neutral zone. Kris Versteeg snapped a top shelf wrist shot past Tuukka Rask on a delayed slashing call on David Krejci, and that set up a one-goal game in the third period.
Jesse Winchester tied things up in the closing minutes when he managed to knock Chara off a puck in front of the Boston net, and then popped it past Tuukka Rask in impressive fashion.
GOLD STAR: Dougie Hamilton said he was excited to be back in the Bruins lineup after being scratched for a couple of games, and it showed. He finished with a power play goal that gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead in the first period, and led all Boston players with five shots on net in the final tally. He also mixed it up a bit physically with three registered hits and a blocked shot, and showed one big area where he can help the Bruins in the lineup: on the power play point with his uncanny ability to get shots through traffic.
BLACK EYE: The BB&T Center was the big loser Thursday night with an announced crowd of 14,440 that wasn’t even close to that in reality, and an ice surface that saw the puck bouncing all over it. The crowd was filled with Bruins fans as it was. One could hear some very audible boos for Tim Thomas when he was announced in pregame intros. Perhaps the Florida Panthers are skimping on the air conditioning bill a little bit, but – whatever the reason – it wasn’t a pretty consistent complaint in the Bruins dressing room after the contest was over.
TURNING POINT: The Reilly Smith game-winner with 59 seconds left in the third period was the clear and present winner after it looked like the game was headed to overtime following Jesse Winchester’s goal. The Bruins have previously frittered away a four-minute power play courtesy of a Dmitry Kulikov high stick to the face of David Krejci, and things didn’t look like momentum was swinging in their direction. But the Bruins still managed to come up with a wobbling puck that got between the pads of Tim Thomas.
HONORABLE MENTION: Reilly Smith generated 10 shot attempts, scored the game-winner with less than a minute to go in the third period and was one of the best players on the ice for the Bruins throughout the 60 minute effort. With Smith continuing to play well and Brad Marchand continuing to slump, it doesn’t look like he’s giving up his spot on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson anytime soon. He’s been a real find as one of the lesser known assets in the trade between the Bruins and Dallas Stars that sent Tyler Seguin to the Lone Star State.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 – the number of shots on net for Brad Marchand in 12:09 of ice time in another disappointing game for the Nose Face Killah.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a game. It was a little weird seeing him out there at first, but after that it was about focusing on your own job rather than thinking who was at the other end. He looked like himself. He likes to make those weird saves, and he didn't disappoint anybody today." –Tuukka Rask, on playing Tim Thomas at the opposite end of the ice for the first time.