Tim Thomas will always hold a special place in the hearts of Boston fans, but for the first time since helping lead the team to Stanley Cup victory in 2011, he wasn’t a teammate, but an opponent. In a much touted match up between the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers, Thomas looked to lead his new team in victory, while Boston hoped to capitalize on their familiarity with an old friend.
Coming off a frustrating loss to Detroit at home on Monday, it was Boston who dominated the first period in Florida. Adam McQuaid was targeted as the healthy scratch for the black and gold defense, perhaps an odd choice at first, but the young defensive trio of Bartkowski, Hamilton and Krug proved to be a solid choice. In the first period alone, combined they skated to the dressing room with a goal and an assist. First period scoring, Paille with a wrister at 3:45 from Seidenberg and Bartkowski. At 11:16, Mattias made the strides of shame to the penalty box for a hooking call on Krejci. Ceasing the power play opportunity, Hamilton at 12:47, from Krejci and Chara. The Bruins left the score at 2-0 going into the second.
Lackluster performance in the first for Florida saw a similar start to the second period, however, they found their momentum swing at 12:32 from the ever talented, once Bruin, Versteeg who quickly wristed the puck past Rask with the assistance of Huberdeau and Gilbert. The lack of intensity was a key theme throughout the second, which gave way for limited overall action and one tripping penalty coming at 18:24 from Bruins Smith against Weaver. Despite peppering goals at 39-year-old Thomas, who faced a total of 26 in the opening periods, 40 by games end, the score remained 2-1 heading into the third.
Opportunities galore faced the Panthers in the opening minutes of the third, but Rask managed to keep the score 2-1 in Bostons’ favor. A one goal game meant the chance for Florida to turn the tables, with the possibility to tie in sight, the pressure was on and continued throughout the period. Boston, with a successful power play so far this season looked to make it 3-1 when they were awarded an extended power play from a high stick on Krejci, it was Panthers Kulikov that skated to the box at 6:24. Killing off the four minute penalty, the Panthers found their stride shortly after the halfway mark, trying to make moves against Rask but ultimately found themselves denied. The effort from the Panthers was evident as Winchester tipped the puck past Rask at the 14:00 mark, tying the game. But it was Boston who pulled out the win from an unassisted backhand at 19:01 from former Dallas Star, Reilly Smith. The goal put the Bruins past the Panthers with a final of 3-2.
“It got close at the end there, we didn’t want that to happen,” said Smith. “It’s a great feeling to be able to score, to help your team out and to get a win.”
Both teams will play their next game on Saturday, October, 19th. Boston will look to sweep their Florida road trip when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second time this season; while the Minnesota Wild skate into Panther territory.