BRUINS 4, PANTHERS 0
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
BOSTON – The Bruins haven't scored many goals against the Panthers on home ice recently, but on Thursday night, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton did some damage.
Lucic recorded his second career hat trick off passes from the former Florida sniper and backup goalie Tuukka Rask stopped all 41 shots he faced as the Bruins rolled to a 4-0 victory over the Panthers at TD Garden.
Horton, traded to Boston from Florida during the summer, had his first three-point night since he scored a goal with two assists in Tampa last April – his second-to-last game as a member of the Panthers.
“They all mean a lot, you want to win games and be in the best position for the playoffs,'' said Horton, as Lucic stood nearby wearing a plaid fedora that his teammates all autographed. “But it's definitely nice to beat my old team. [Lucic's] been great all year, is a great player. What an unbelievable game by him.''
When Lucic scored Boston's first goal at 15:37 of the opening period, it was the first time the Panthers had been scored on in Boston since the 2008-09 season. The Panthers shutout streak in Boston lasted 151:06.
Both Tomas Vokoun and Scott Clemmensen recorded shutouts here last season as the Panthers won both games at the Garden by 1-0 scores. Florida also beat the Bruins here by a 1-0 score (with Craig Anderson in net) at the end of the 2007-08 season.
Lucic's second and third goals put the Panthers away as he scored twice within a 15-second span with a little over five minutes remaining in the game. Shawn Thornton put the whipped cream on the victory when he scored with 3:54 left to completely, absolutely, put things away.
Until then, however, it was a game. A game the Panthers felt they could even up. David Booth, who was questionable to play before the game, took 14 shots at Rask. One was so hard that it knocked the mask clear off the goalies head. Rask smirked and continued on. It wasn't the Panthers night.
“I just kept shooting, there were rebounds I could have gotten to,'' Booth said. “It was a 1-0 game, we were right there, we outshot them. We didn't get the two points, but if we keep playing like that, we'll find success.''
Vokoun was strong in net for the Panthers once more – he had given up but one goal in each of his previous three starts – but he couldn't hold the Bruins (or Lucic) off all night. The Panthers had a number of chances during the third period to tie the score but couldn't get the puck past Rask.
Rask won 22 games for the Bruins last season as he supplanted Tim Thomas as the starter. But Thomas has been fantastic this season and Rask is back to being the backup. Not only did Thursday mark Rask's first shutout of the season, it also brought his first win. Rask came into the game 0-4-1. Thomas, who won in New York on Wednesday, is 10-1-0.
“It's a nice luxury to have,'' coach Pete DeBoer said, “when the other guy is playing better than that. He was great tonight but we gave one hell of an effort. He was there all night. It looked like we could have taken a hundred shots and nothing was going to go through.''
POWER PLAY WOES
Florida has not scored a power play goal in its past four games and went 0-for-5 against the Bruins on Thursday. The Panthers came into Thursday with the league's 29th ranked power play unit. The Panthers five power play goals are fewest in the league.
“Tuukka Rask was our power play problem,'' DeBoer said. “We created plenty of chances. When they have a goalie playing like that .-.-.''
-- Rostislav Olesz was hit in the hand by a puck on Thursday and he had to leave the game. He will be further evaluated on Friday. Bruiser Darcy Hordichuk left the game to get stitched up after his first period fight with Shawn Thornton but returned.
-- The Panthers plan on holding practice at Northeastern University in Boston on Friday afternoon before flying to Long Island. Florida visits the struggling Islanders on Saturday night.