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Florida Panthers Crash, Burn in Third then Closed-Door Meeting: Bruins 3, Panthers 1

BRUINS 3, PANTHERS 1

BY GEORGE RICHARDS
grichards@MiamiHerald.com

When the game was over, after the Panthers had blown their first third period lead of the season, the doors were closed and the players vented.

Two straight losses – including Wednesday's 3-1 defeat to the visiting Bruins – was enough to make some players want to vent. For 15 minutes, one player after another spoke.

“It seems that it's a mental approach. I'm new here, but the team hasn't made the playoffs in a long time and one way to do that is to win the games you lead going into the third,'' winger Chris Higgins said. “You have to have that mental toughness, the commitment to defense the entire game. We're done with the whole staying positive thing. At some point we have to go into action. We have to make sure the commitment to the team shows in your play.''

Florida led 1-0 going into the third, but Boston stormed back with two quick goals to start the period.

Florida, which has lost both games to the Bruins in a span of a week, had been 8-0 when leading after the second period. Boston improves to 2-6-2 when trailing going into the third.

Before the Bruins third period surge, the Panthers had done a good job at playing a defensive-first game and limiting Boston's chances.

Nathan Horton, who was traded away by the Panthers during the summer and playing his first game in Sunrise since the deal, leads the Bruins in scoring but only had one shot in the opening 40. Milan Lucic had three goals in Boston's 4-0 win over Florida last Thursday, but he didn't have many opportunities against the Panthers either.

Florida was playing with a 1-0 lead courtesy of a Steven Reinprecht goal that came 2:14 into the second period when he knocked a puck past Tim Thomas (11-1-1). The Panthers locked down defensively and went into the second break with a lead.

It wouldn't hold up. Florida once again failed to take advantage of its power play chances. Lucic took a penalty with a minute left in the second. The Panthers came out for the third with a minute left on that penalty but watched the Bruins win the opening face-off and charge down the ice. Tomas Vokoun misplayed the puck behind the net and Brad Marchand charged in and scored the shorthanded goal just eight seconds into the period.

With the score tied, the Bruins smelled chum in the water and kept up the offensive attack. Just over two minutes after Marchand's goal, Boston's Mark Recchi was able to score in traffic to give the Bruins their first – and final – lead of the night.

“We're 20 games in and we have to be better,'' David Booth said. “Yeah, we're staying close, but we have to win. We have to change the mentality around here. We needed to bounce back after that first goal and we didn't. We have to start bearing down, win these games.''

Late in the game, Michal Repik was called for high sticking. Just 14 seconds later, Radek Dvorak dumped a puck in the stands and was also sent to the box. The Bruins, with a lengthy two-man advantage didn't waste much time as Recchi scored from the right side of the net for his second of the night.

-- The Panthers power play went 0-for-2 on Wednesday and is now scoreless in its past 28 chances. Florida, which is last in the league in power play percentage (7.2 percent) and goals (five), hasn't scored with a man advantage since Nov. 10.

NEW OLD GUYS

Because of injuries to defensemen Bryan Allen and Jason Garrison, the Panthers had to raid their AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., once more. Allen is out for at least a week with a broken foot; Garrison's bothersome groin is ailing him.

The Panthers recalled Keaton Ellerby for the third time; Joe Callahan was also brought up. Callahan, who grew up rooting for the Bruins on the southside of Boston, got to play his childhood team for the first time in his career. Callahan played in 19 NHL games with the Islanders and San Jose over the previous two seasons.

-- Steven Reinprecht (groin) returned to the lineup after missing the past two games with a groin injury. Bill Thomas was a healthy scratch.

HOMECOMING

Horton and Gregory Campbell had most of Tuesday to visit old haunts in South Florida as the Bruins arrived in town on Monday and held a practice Tuesday afternoon in Sunrise. Horton went and visited his house in western Broward County before hitting up the mall. Both players had trouble finding the visiting locker room as they had spent their entire career with the Panthers before being traded in June.

Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was also traded by the Panthers, but that came late in his first season with the team in March.

“It's always nice to be back. This is a great place,'' Horton said. “I was here a long time. This is the place I played most of my career, but I don't think [emotions] will be too bad. I don't know exactly where to go around here, so I'm just following the other guys.''


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