Jose Theodore saw his share of the Bruins when he was with the rival Montreal Canadiens. So he needed no extra motivation against Boston, even though the defending Stanley Cup champions were the hottest team in hockey and one point ahead of the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference.
”There’s always something that gets you going,” Theodore said after making 40 saves to beat Boston 2-0 on Thursday night and snap Tim Thomas’ winning streak at 10 games. ”And when you play against the best, you want to raise your game.”
Tomas Kopecky broke a scoreless tie with 2:32 left, and Theodore notched his second shutout of the season to lead the Panthers.
”It was just one of these games I was seeing the puck well, and I knew right away that it was going to be tough for them to score goals,” said Theodore, who faced the Bruins in the playoffs in 2002 and `04 and beat them both times. ”When I feel like I’m on top of my game, I’m tough to beat. And tonight we just played well, stuck with the game plan, didn’t panic and got away with a win.”
Thomas made 28 saves in his first loss since Oct. 27. In the 11 games since, he has allowed just 18 goals while posting three shutouts.
He was on his way to a fourth when Shawn Matthias took the puck wide and shot on net. Thomas made the save but left the puck in front; Sean Bergenheim skated over it and missed, but Kopecky followed up and put it in.
”I just wanted to make sure I got everything I had on it, because he’s a really goalie,” Kopecky said. ”We knew he’s going to be playing hard, we knew it’s going to be a tight game. So after the second period we just said, `We need to stay patient.”’
Kris Versteeg added an empty-net goal with 42 seconds left, outracing the Bruins to a loose puck and backhanding it into the net to give Florida its third consecutive victory.
With the win, the Panthers moved ahead of the Bruins and into second place in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins went all of November without losing a game in regulation, but they are 2-2 in December. They have lost two in a row for the first time since back-to-back losses to Montreal at the end of October.
”We did a good job of getting shots and scoring chances, but that’s all they are if you don’t get results,” forward Milan Lucic said, noting that the Bruins hit the post three times in the first 10 minutes. ”We’ve got to get back and remember what got us those 14 wins in 15 games (in November).”
The Bruins dominated the scoring chances for most of the game, but Florida put pressure on Thomas with 5 minutes left and then struck quickly after Lucic whiffed on a puck in the Florida zone to allow the game-winning break.
”You could see they were just waiting for a mistake to take advantage of,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. ”And that’s just what they did.”
The Bruins hadn’t been shut out since the third game of the season. But they suffered from sustained bad luck, hitting the post a handful of times and failing to capitalize on chances even as they outshot Florida 40-30.
Notes: It was the 101st consecutive sellout for the Bruins. … Eight of the top 10 plus-players in the NHL were in the game, five on Boston and three on Florida. Zdeno Chara and Tyler Seguin of the Bruins entered with a league-best plus-19. … Seguin returned from a one-game benching for missing a team meeting in Winnipeg. He played in his 100th career game, and Theodore played in his 600th. … The Bruins announced before the game that they signed first-round draft pick Dougie Hamilton, a defenseman who was the ninth overall choice this summer. … Bruins forward Daniel Paille left the game after one shift and didn’t return. Julien said he was ”dinged up.”