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Bruins stay perfect on road with win over Panthers

October 31, 2015, 5:28 AM ET [22 Comments]
Ty Anderson
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Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins kicked off their weekend tour of the Sunshine State off on a positive note on Friday night behind a dominant 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers in Sunrise.

In their first head-to-head with the division rival Panthers, the Bruins opened their night with the game’s first goal 9:22 into the first period on a Brad Marchand redirect through Roberto Luongo off a Zdeno Chara wrister from inside the blue line. Marchand’s goal, his fourth of the season and second in as many games, came on Boston’s first power-play of the night, with Bruin-turned-Panther Reilly Smith in the box for a hook on Kevan Miller.

Marchand’s tally held as the lone goal through 20 minutes of play due in large part to a stellar opening period from Rask, who went 7-for-7, headlined by a diving pad-stack to deny a prime Florida chance.

It would be Marchand that pushed the B’s lead out to two, too, on a rebound tuck-in through Luongo following a Torey Krug slap-pass that put the puck back on No. 63’s heated stick.

The Bruins added another goal, this one coming just 2:06 after Marchand’s second, another power-play strike, with Zdeno Chara pounding a rebound into a wide-open cage for his first of the year.

Chara’s power-play marker was his 67th in a Boston uniform, putting him just seven more power-play tallies away from tying the iconic Bobby Orr for the second-most in Bruins history among defensemen.

On their first 5-on-3 advantage of the night, the ‘Cats finally broke through by way of Nick Bjugstad’s fourth of the season, with Dave Bolland and Brandon Pirri picking up the helpers.

The Panthers nearly inched closer to the Black and Gold with Chara in the box late in the third period -- which prompted Gerard Gallant to pull Luongo in favor of a 6-on-4 advantage -- but the Bruins held on late, with Rask finishing the night with an impressive 31-of-32 showing to his name.

Marchand was the story of the night for the B’s, even though his night ended on a sour note with a five-minute boarding and game misconduct for a board against the Panthers’ Dmitry Kulikov. The five seemed to be an automatic with Kulikov’s face busting open on the dasher and exiting the game.

The win pushed the Bruins to a perfect 4-0-0 on the road in 2015-16.

Random thoughts and notes

- If there’s one big takeaway from this game, it’s the progress of Boston’s second power play unit. Through nearly a month of hockey, the talk of the Hub has been the play of the B’s first unit -- a potent five led by Krug and David Krejci on the point, with Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson, and Ryan Spooner on the point -- which has by all means carried the club at times this year. But the Bruins’ second unit -- with Chara and Colin Miller on the blue, and Marchand, Brett Connolly, and Jimmy Hayes skating as the three forwards -- looks to be heating up quite a bit. While movement was seemingly always this unit’s issue through their first five or six games together, the second unit has found ways to gain the attacking blue and most important keep the puck on their stick for prolonged zone time. It’s paying off.

With a 2-for-3 night, the Boston power play improved to 35.5% on the year, still the best in the NHL.

- Is Tuukka Rask still in jeopardy of losing the starting job to Jonas Gustavsson? Yeah, didn’t think so.

- The Panthers put forth a real, real strong effort. And that was without top-line winger Jaromir Jagr (gee, I gotta admit that it feels weird to still write that in 2015) in the lineup. The future is undoubtedly bright in Florida. I just question how many of their current core pieces will be part of it. In essence, did you know that these guys are the oldest team in hockey? Think about that for a minute.

Up next

The Bruins are back at it on Sat. night as the travel to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning. The Bolts take the only previous head-to-head between these two by a 6-3 final at TD Garden on Oct. 12. The Bruins will take to Tampa ice with wins in five of their last six contests, while the Lightning are in the midst of a three-game losing streak and with both Jonathan Drouin and Tyler Johnson questionable.

Ty Anderson has been covering the National Hockey League for HockeyBuzz.com since 2010, has been a member of the Pro Hockey Writers Association's Boston Chapter since 2013, and can be contacted on Twitter, or emailed at Ty.AndersonHB[at]gmail.com.
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