Don’t look now, but one of the hottest teams in the NHL is the one wearing the spoked-B.
The Boston Bruins visited the Florida Panthers on Friday night and left with a 3-1 victory — their fifth in six games after beginning the season with three consecutive losses.
Brad Marchand scored twice, the Bruins’ power play produced two goals, and goalie Tuukka Rask turned in his best effort of the season, finishing with 31 saves in the win.
Reilly Smith had a hand in the Bruins’ first goal of the night. Unfortunately for Smith, he no longer plays for the Bruins.
The winger, whom the B’s traded to the Panthers in exchange for Jimmy Hayes last offseason, was whistled for hooking at the 7:57 mark of the first period, and Boston, which leads the NHL in power-play goals, capitalized.
Marchand tipped a Zdeno Chara shot past goaltender Roberto Luongo to put the visitors up 1-0.
The goal was Marchand’s second power-play tally in seven games. He had two power-play goals in 77 games last season.
It also proved to be the only goal of the first period, thanks largely to Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. One game after posting his first shutout of the season, Rask stopped all seven shots he faced in the first, including primo chances by Quinton Howden, Nick Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau.
After weathering some fierce Panthers pressure in the opening minutes of the second, the Bruins added another goal. Marchand again did the honors, sliding a backhander past Luongo off assists from Torey Krug and Patrice Bergeron.
A tripping call on Brandon Pirri just 21 seconds later gave Boston’s vaunted power play another shot, and for a second straight time, it did not disappoint. This time, Chara finished the job, slamming home his first goal of the season.
David Krejci and Bergeron assisted on the tally. Krejci, who entered the game as the league’s second-leading scorer, has recorded at least a point in all nine games this season.
Florida finally broke through midway through the frame after Boston defensemen committed three penalties in rapid succession. The Panthers’ first 5-on-3 opportunity resulted in a Bjugstad goal, but some more brilliant play by Rask helped the Bruins kill off a second two-man advantage, this one lasting 84 seconds.
The Bruins were dealt a scare early in the final period when Bergeron took an Alex Petrovic shot off the right leg. The flying puck felled the veteran center, who immediately skated off the ice and down the tunnel.
Bergeron returned following the next TV timeout, however, and appeared no worse for wear.
The rest of the period belonged to Rask, who foiled the Panthers at every turn. He stopped all 18 shots he faced in the final frame and withstood 2:03 of 6-on-4 to end the game after Marchand was given a five-minute boarding major and a game misconduct for a hit from behind on Dmitry Kulikov.
After allowing 22 goals over his first four games, Rask has allowed only one over his last two.
The Bruins wrap up their two-game trip through the Sunshine State on Sunday when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts are 1-0 against the B’s this season, having won 6-3 at TD Garden earlier this month.
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