Tim Thomas’ homecoming at the TD Garden did not go as he planned as the Boston Bruins hung a six spot on the Florida Panthers en route to a 6-2 victory.
The Bruins dominated from start to finish besides a little hiccup at the end of the second period into the start of the third where the Panthers cut the lead to 4-2.
The offense continued its torrid pace as they scored six goals for the third straight game. Tuukka Rask notched 28 saves and earned his 24th win on the year.
Here are three takeaways from Monday night’s win:
Tuukka Rask vs. Tim Thomas outside story
We all know how difficult it is when the media hypes big time games as well as marquee player match-ups. It was Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady a week ago. Nine days later, the discussion in Boston was about Tuukka Rask vs. Tim Thomas.
The Bruins, however, did not pay attention to the noise and stuck to their game plan coming out with their fourth straight victory. They made it a team game and not an individual match up.
Head coach Claude Julien told his players it did not matter who the opposing goaltender was tonight, but to stick to the game plan.
“He’s been here, although he didn’t play, he was up in the press box, eventually you kind of turn the page,” Julien said. “For us, we did our scouting report on the goaltender like we always do every game and it was as simple as that. So it didn’t really matter. Tim’s always going to be a part of this organization for what he’s done, but right now he’s on the other side and we just have to look at him as an opposing goaltender.”
Milan Lucic scored the first goal of the game and the Black and Gold never looked back.
Once the game started it was never about Rask and Thomas, but how the B’s could score more goals than the Panthers and they did that convincingly.
First line carries the load.
It seems as if every night a different Bruin player or line carries the mail. On this night, it was Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla doing the honors.
Lucic tallied two goals, Krejci had a goal and two assists and Iginla added two assists to give the trio a seven point night and a plus-13 rating.
Over the past week, the focus was on the red-hot Bergeron line. They were held in check for the most part against the Panthers. But, it didn't matter, because the team is built on rolling all four lines.
Over the last four games, the three have combined for 18 points. It was only two weeks ago where we were concerned of the play of the first line. Iginla hadn’t scored since January 2, Lucic had two goals since December 21 and Krejci had one goal since 2013. But that slump is now in the past as all three forwards have been playing solid and consistent hockey lately.
Lucic stressed his line’s success was due to their effectiveness of breaking out of the defensive zone.
“I think that has everything to do with it and I think that’s the biggest factor - that we’re able to get out of zone cleanly and get going on the rush and then establish some offensive zone play,” said the seventh-year forward.
“We had a tough stretch there in early January kind of in the middle of January there where we weren’t doing our job producing and we kind of got it started in the Dallas game by getting some results and that’s what we have to bring.”
Reilly Smith stays hot
While the Bergeron line didn't generate many chances, Reilly Smith still found a way to find the back of the net. His power play goal at 14:54 of the second period put him ahead of Brad Marchand in the team lead in goals with 18 and gave the B's a 4-0 lead. That goal extended his point streak to seven games (three goals, five assists in that span).
There is a time that we need to expect this out of Smith and now is that time. Smith is no longer an afterthought. He is the leading scorer on a first place team. His 40 points are five behind David Krejci for the team lead.
It helps that Smith got promoted and now plays alongside Bergeron and Marchand, but the Miami (Ohio) alum is developing into quite the playmaker. Make no mistake about it, he is here to stay.
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