BOSTON - It wasn’t going to win any awards in the beauty department, but the Bruins got exactly what they needed in the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
The Bruins shook off a sleepy opening period and finished off a 4-1 victory over the Atlantic Division tomato can Panthers at TD Garden after pouring on a couple of goals in the final 20 minutes. The victory snapped a stretch where the Bruins had lost four out of five and evens their season-long five game homestand at 1-1 with three games left.
Even better, the TD Garden crowd watched a highlight reel package of Tim Thomas moments on the Jumbotron, and gave the former Stanley Cup-winning goaltender, who was injured and didn't play for the Panthers, a standing ovation as he waved to the crowd.
After a scoreless first, David Krejci opened the scoring in the second with a long blast from inside the blue line through heavy traffic in front of the net. The Bruins kicked it into overdrive in the third period as Brad Marchand cleaned up the rebound of a Dennis Seidenberg shot to snap a 12-game goal-scoring drought, and Torey Krug snapped in a top shelf sniper shot from the slot to cap things off for the Black and Gold.
It was Krug’s sixth goal of the season, which puts him into a tie with Erik Karlsson for the NHL lead in goals among defensemen.
Jesse Winchester popped in a Tuukka Rask rebound with 5:35 to go in the third period to put the Panthers on the board, but there was little danger of Boston blowing two points on this particular night. Reilly Smith added his second goal of the season late in the third period to add on to the one-sided victory.
Rask made 22 saves for the Bruins and improved to 8-4-1 on the season.
GOLD STAR: It wasn’t a perfect effort by any means, but Brad Marchand continues to take baby steps that helped him end a 12-game goal-scoring drought with a third period tap-in. The dry spell was the longest of his career since his rookie season, and was part of an awakening in Marchand’s game that’s been happening the past few games. Earlier in the contest, he had to be escorted back to the Bruins bench by linesman Darren Gibbs after chirping incessantly at a group of Panthers players in front of the net. That was a sign Marchand was dialed into the game. It marks the second straight game that Marchand has been playing more like the Nose Face Killah of old, and perhaps a sign he’s escaping his season-long slump.
BLACK EYE: No shots and a minus-3 for Dmitry Kulikov. No shots on net, two giveaways and a minus-3 for Tomas Fleischmann. No shots on net and minus-2 ratings for Mike Weaver and Shawn Matthias. No much better from Erik Gudbranson and Marcel Goc. The Panthers are a pretty awful hockey team, and acted as perhaps the perfect slump-buster for the B's.
TURNING POINT: Once Marchand scored the first goal of the third period to make it a 2-0 lead for the Bruins, the Panthers appeared to essentially throw in the towel. Torey Krug and Reilly Smith sandwiched a Florida goal that spoiled the shutout, but otherwise there didn’t seem to be much compete from the Panthers once it seemed out of reach. That’s a bad look for any NHL hockey team, and it’s a real shame that a good hockey coach in Kevin Dineen isn’t getting better material to work with as the Panthers float through another disappointing season.
HONORABLE MENTION: Credit the Bruins fans for giving Tim Thomas the standing ovation he richly deserved when the TD Garden game operations people put a Thomas 2011 highlight package up on the Jumbotron. They cheered and applauded once they realized it was happening during a TV timeout in the third period, and then really stepped it up into a standing ovation once Tim Thomas flashed on the screen grinning and waving to the fans. It was the kind of closure and goodbye Thomas was never able to give when he walked away from the Bruins organization, but still deserved after his heroics in the Stanley Cup run.
BY THE NUMBERS: 6 – the number of goals scored for Torey Krug, which puts him into a tie with Ottawa Senators ace blueliner Erik Karlsson for the NHL lead in goals among defensemen.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We needed one like that, especially in our home building. A lead in the third period, we’ve had the before, and for us to close it out like that was definitely a good sign.” –Krug, on a victory that comes after the Bruins had lost four of five.