Final: Boston 6, Florida 2
Recap: The Bruins put at least 18 pucks on net in the first period for a second straight game, this time peppering old friend Tim Thomas with 19 bids. Two of them eluded the Panthers netminder. Milan Lucic got things rolling with his third goal since Dec. 1, and Zdeno Chara doubled the lead on a shot from the point that was initially credited to Lucic.
As such, unknowing fans thought Lucic completed the natural hat trick when he scored again early in the middle frame, prompting a few hats to be thrown onto the ice. Reilly Smith made it a four-goal game when he buried a feed from power-play pal Carl Soderberg. Brad Boyes got the Panthers on the board near the end of the second, cashing in on a setup from Nick Bjudgstad.
In the third, the TD Garden crowd got a little nervous when Dmitry Kulikov tallied on the man advantage to cut the B's lead to two, but Boston responded four minutes later with Shawn Thornton's fourth goal of the season. David Krejci closed out the scoring with a top-shelf snap shot with 2:09 to go.
Records: Boston 34-15-3, 71 points; Florida 21-25-7, 49 points
Key Play of the Game: When Thornton crossed through the slot with the puck and failed to get off a shot, it seemed as though his chance had passed as the puck floated off into the corner. Somehow, No 22 came out of there with it, despite being surrounded by Panthers. He came in along the goal line on Thomas and roofed a beautiful backhander past his former teammate, turning this one back into a laugher in the process.
Connolly's Commendations: After a tremendous game against the Flyers, the B's first line was back in dominant form against the Panthers. Lucic, Krejci and Jarome Iginla combined for seven points and a plus-13 rating. The trio simply picked apart a Florida squad that gave Boston too much room to operate offensively all night long.
Reilly Smith can claim he's just "riding the coattails" of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand right now, but the young winger didn't need their help tonight on his power-play strike. Smith's score extended his point streak to seven games (3g, 5a).
Connolly's Critiques: The dismal Panthers hung Thomas out to dry for most of the evening, but regardless, it wasn't an impressive showing for the 2011 Conn Smythe Trophy winner. The end to his night was the ugliest moment of all, with Soderberg -- who may have caught Thomas up high with his own stick -- receiving a nice whack from Thomas' paddle after a scoring chance with just seconds left in the contest.
Notes: The B's have now scored six goals in three straight games. ... Tuukka Rask was in net for the Bruins. Have I mentioned that yet? He didn't stand on his head, but he was a lot better than his old mentor, stopping 28-of-30 shots. ... Chris Kelly returned to the lineup and split time between the third line and fourth line. He won 12-of-15 faceoffs (!) in 15:22 of ice time and probably should've been in the commendations section, but it's too late for that now.
Final Thoughts: Aside from the embarrassment of being the team the Panthers ended their streak of 43 unsuccessful power plays against, the Bruins absolutely dominated a club that doesn't look like it should be within a country mile of a playoff spot in the East. Those hoping for a goaltending duel were greatly disappointed.
Next: The Bruins will host the Canadiens on Thursday.