Panthers overpowered by Bruins in Tim Thomas’ return to Boston
BOSTON (AP) — The suddenly high-scoring Boston Bruins are showing no mercy, even for the departed goalie who led them to the Stanley Cup.
Milan Lucic scored twice and the Bruins spoiled Tim Thomas’ first game in Boston as a visitor with a 6-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.
"I think I might’ve enjoyed myself watching the State of the Union more," said Thomas, not a big fan of President Barack Obama, who delivered the speech at the same time as the Bruins were beating the Panthers for the sixth straight time. "No, probably not."
In 2011, Thomas didn’t accompany his teammates to the White House for the ceremony with Obama marking their championship that year.
Boston scored six goals for the third straight game, following road wins of 6-1 and 6-3. The Atlantic Division leaders improved to 5-0-1 in their last six games.
Why all that scoring for a team known for its defense?
"We’ve been able to get out of our zone cleanly and establish the rush," Lucic said.
They kept going to the very end, with Carl Soderberg charging into the crease where an angry Thomas swung his stick, hitting Soderberg in the helmet with 4 seconds left.
"With less than a minute left in the game and they’re up by four goals," Thomas said, "I took exception to that."
Soderberg proclaimed his innocence.
"I was just going for the rebound," he said. "We can’t stop playing."
Even if the opposing goalie was Thomas, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP with the Bruins in 2011. He spent one more season with them, took last season off and then joined the Panthers.
"Tim’s always going to be a part of this organization for what he’s done," Boston coach Claude Julien said, "but we just have to look at him as the opposing goalie."
Zdeno Chara, Reilly Smith, Shawn Thornton and David Krejci also scored for Boston, which led 4-0 until Brad Boyes connected for Florida with 2:33 left in the second period. Dmitry Kulikov added a power-play goal for the Panthers 4 minutes into the third.
"All four lines are putting the puck in the net," Krejci said. "That’s good to see."
Fans applauded lightly when Thomas was introduced as the starting goalie. But after Thornton made it 5-2 just more than 8 minutes into the third period, they derisively chanted, "Thomas! Thomas!"
"I didn’t really hear it too much," Thomas said. "There were really not a lot of feelings."
Thomas played against the Bruins for the first time on Oct. 17 in Boston’s 3-2 win at Florida. He traveled with the Panthers to Boston but did not play Nov. 7 in the Bruins’ 4-1 victory.
For the second consecutive game, the Bruins were the early aggressors, outshooting the Panthers 19-8 in the first period. On Monday night, Boston took 18 of the first 20 shots in a 6-3 win over the New York Islanders.
Lucic gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead at 7:41 of the first period on a rebound after Thomas stopped Jarome Iginla’s shot from the right circle.
Lucic was initially credited with the second goal less than 8 minutes later when Chara’s 45-foot shot from the right appeared to hit him before bouncing over Thomas and trickling into the net. The scoring was changed when it was determined that the puck hit Thomas’ glove, not Lucic.
But that didn’t stop a few spectators from throwing hats on the ice early in the second, thinking Lucic had completed a hat trick when he scored his 15th of the season on a short backhand.
Smith made it 4-0 with his team-leading 18th goal at 14:54 of the second on a pass across the slot from Soderberg. He beat Thomas to the open side of the net.
"That wasn’t (Thomas’) best game," Panthers coach Peter Horachek said, "but I don’t think there were a lot of solid efforts by many of the players."
After Boyes ruined Tuukka Rask’s bid for his fourth shutout in 13 decisions, Kulikov made it 4-2. His goal ended an 0-for-43 power-play drought for the Panthers over their previous 13 games and the first two periods Tuesday.
Rask finished with 28 saves.
NOTES: Sean Bergenheim’s assist on Kulikov’s goal was his 150th NHL point. It came in his 100th game with the Panthers. … Bruins forward Chris Kelly played for the first time since missing 22 games with a broken leg. … Boston is 12-2 in its last 14 home games.