The Boston Bruins (4-2-0) scored a goal 19:01 into the third period to defeat the Florida Panthers (2-6-0) in Florida last night 3-2. The goal came off a backhander by Bruins winger Reilly Smith that snuck through the five-hole of goalie Tim Thomas.
Thomas, who played in Boston for eight seasons, had some of the same acrobatic saves that helped him lead the Bruins to a Stanley Cup title in 2011. Tuukka Rask was equally as impressive, saving 27 of the 29 shots he saw last night. Although Boston earned the victory, inconsistent play gave the Florida skaters more scoring chances than they probably should have had.
Daniel Paille started the scoring for the Bruins, beating Thomas high stick side for a goal less than four minutes into the game.
After a defensive zone faceoff win, defenseman Dennis Seidenberg recognized an opportunity for a three-on-two if he skated the puck out of his zone. Seidenberg quickly skated the puck to the neutral zone before making a perfect pass onto the stick of a streaking Paille up the left wing who finished with a nice shot past the Panther goalie.
Almost ten minutes later, the Bruins scored another goal, this time on the power-play. It was a welcome sight to see something positive come from a power-play unit that has been downright awful early on in the season. It looked as though the Boston power-play would once again accomplish nothing more than giving the opposing team a chance to see how far they could clear the puck with a slap shot from their own zone.
With only thirty seconds remaining on the man advantage, Dougie Hamilton made himself available for a pass at the blue line and put a wrist shot on goal. What was seemingly an innocent shot turned into a goal thanks to the 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara creating a Tim Thomas eclipse, screening the goalie from seeing the oncoming Hamilton wrister.
After the first period, Boston led 2-0 and made it clear to all those watching they were the better team. Unfortunately, the only thing sloppier than the ice surface in Florida last night were the Boston Bruins. Whether it was the condition of the ice or simply sloppy play, the Bruins skaters were consistently inconsistent, making poor decision with the puck throughout the game.
The first goal for the Panthers came with the extra man on the ice because of a delayed slashing penalty on David Krejci. Krejci compounded his penalty by over-aggressively racing for the puck, leading to the goal that brought Florida within one of Boston. The first goal was caused by poor decision making by Krejci, but the tying goal was caused by sloppy play by two unlikely culprits.
Both Chara and Rask are accustomed to stopping the other team from scoring, but on the Panthers second goal, they were more of a contributing factor to the goal. First, Chara was unable to clear a rolling puck in front of goal, whiffing on the attempt. As the puck rolled through Chara’s legs, Rask was in good position to cover up the puck and force a faceoff. What is usually an easy play for Rask turned into a goal for the Panthers Nick Bjugstad. “I didn’t want to cost us the game. I made a mistake there and they tied it up…the guys came up big after that.” Rask said after the game. What looked like costly mistake by Rask turned into just another play thanks to teammate Reilly Smith.
Smith, who has earned a spot on the Bruins second line with his good play, made a pass to Patrice Bergeron in traffic from behind the net. Smith then circled around goal opportunistically finding the puck and backhanding it for the game winner. It was a goal that fooled Tim Thomas, “Yeah, changeup. The way his stick was angled and the puck, it wasn’t laying exactly flat. I thought he was going high blocker with it, and it was just enough to get me to move my stick out of the way and to open up to start taking away that upper blocker. That was a tough one.”
A win is a win and they all count the same, but the Bruins are clearly a better team than the Florida Panthers and with a two goal lead after one, they should have coasted to a victory. They may have been able to get out of Sunrise, Florida with a win, but if they had been playing that way against stiffer opposition, they would have taken the loss.
Going forward the team needs to tighten up some of their passes and make better decisions out on the ice. They will get that chance against another division opponent tomorrow night in Tampa as they take on the Lightning (5-2-0). The Lightning, behind one of the best scorers in the NHL Steven Stamkos, will make the Bruins pay if their sloppy play continues.