The second half of the NHL season officially started for the Boston Bruins on Thursday night. They played host to the Florida Panthers.
The Bruins were coming off of a tough, yet not surprising loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins after holding a two-goal lead with a little over six minutes left to play in the game. To make things worse, the B's received word that they had lost center Chris Kelly to a broken tibia and will be out indefinitely.
However, a team like Florida could have been just what the Bruins needed to bounce back.
Heading into this game, the Panthers were the worst team in the NHL (20 points). This squad has been devastated with injuries to their key players, forcing them to play several young kids. Since the Bruins already defeated them earlier in the year, this was fixing to be a tough game for Florida.
Not so much actually.
Tuukka Rask was back between the pipes for the Black and Gold. Scott Clemmensen was in goal for the Panthers at the other end of the ice. Along with Kelly, Adam McQuaid was not in the lineup due to a minor injury. He was replaced by Aaron Johnson.
The Bruins got things started in the first period on a goal by Zdeno Chara. That goal was a result of good skating and dumping the puck into the zone. On the other hand, the second goal scored by the B's resulted from spreading out and making crisp passes. Patrice Bergeron was the beneficiary as he banged in his seventh goal of the year on assists from Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin.
The Panthers were matching the physical play by laying some big hits on the B's through the first period and into the second period. Their persistent aggressiveness led to a short-handed goal while the Bruins were on the power play. Shawn Matthias recorded the tally after a great individual effort to track the puck down. As for the Bruins, it was a sloppy period. If Rask did not come up with some key stops, the score could have been different up until that point.
The third period was better for the Bruins, yet it still was not perfect. They allowed the Panthers to get more scoring chances, but they were unable to cash in. Boston got some breathing room on a goal by Shawn Thornton. Bergeron would later add an empty-netter to seal the 4-1 victory for the B's.
The Bruins will play their next game on Saturday afternoon against the Washington Capitals.
Gold Star: Tuukka Rask (29 saves on 30 shots, 1 goal allowed, .967 save percentage)...Sometimes a goaltender can change the momentum, but sometimes they can keep it on your side.
Black Star: Milan Lucic...He was responsible for the turnover that led to the lone Panthers goal. Overall, just a disappointing performance from the left-winger.