January 27, 2011

Bruins head to break on high note following win over Panthers

by Jesse Connolly

Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara collides with Darcy Hordichuk of the Panthers. (Getty)

BOSTON -- As strange as it may sound, there were plenty of reasons to expect the Bruins to turn in a dud tonight against the Florida Panthers.

After a lengthy voyage from Los Angeles to Boston yesterday and just one game left on the docket before they all went their separate ways during the All-Star break, a thorough effort from start to finish gave the B's a 2-1 victory over their visitors.

 Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic each tallied for the Bruins, while Tim Thomas made 34 stops to earn his 24th win of the season.

 "It's always good to go into one of these breaks on a high note and feeling good about yourself," Thomas said. "We get a few days off here to relax before we pick it back up.  Hopefully everyone can go into this break feeling good."

 Most important to Thomas was that both he and his teammates didn't mentally check out prematurely.

 "That was our goal tonight was not to start the break too early," he said. "We came out and played a really good first period. In the second and third we played good at times but Florida was able to pressure us at times. I think we did a fairly good job." 

 Even Thomas would admit that not looking past the Panthers -- who entered the night 11th in the Eastern Conference -- was a chore.

 "Speaking from personal experience, I couldn’t help but think about the break a little bit," he said. "I was trying to focus on the game and making sure I was ready to do my job and my work, but it is human nature."

 Marchand, who now has seven goals and 11 points in his last 11 tilts, said the team's spirits are high after going on a ten-game run that saw them win seven times.

 "We’re feeling great right now," Marchand said. "You know, we had a ten-game swing that we kind of wanted to run after. We’ve got seven of our last ten, so we’re feeling pretty good. We have a great squad heading into the All-Star break, and we need to make sure we come back hungry and ready to go."

 Center Patrice Bergeron has played a huge role in that hot stretch, catapulting his way to the top spot in the team's scoring race. The B's pivot believes the area in which the team has made the most strides has been in the consistency department.

 "We’ve improved as the year has gone on," Bergeron said. "I think our consistency has gotten a lot better. There is still some room for improvement, but that is just how it is.  You have to improve and get better as a team. It is a long season and you can’t look too far ahead. I think we have been doing that so far."

 Bergeron -- a bit of an All-Star snub as he was not named as a replacement for any of the multiple injured players -- is just as pleased to be headed into the break on a high note as the rest of his teammates.

 "That was the main focus was to end on a good note tonight," said Bergeron. "Heading into the break I thought we had a good effort. Obviously we wanted to bounce back from that L.A. game. I was very happy with the win."