With the Red Sox battling the Tigers in Game 5 of the ALCS at the same time, a Bruins-Panthers mid-October game in Sunrise, Fla. was rightfully overshadowed. Boston (4-2-0) went up 2-0 12:47 into the contest at the not-even-half-full BB&T Center before Florida (2-6-0) tied it with six minutes left in the third period. This was supposed to be Tim Thomas’ (37 saves) night (his first against his former team) but newcomer Reilly Smith made his first goal as a Bruin particularly memorable. He potted the game-winner with 59 seconds left in regulation as Boston began its three-game road trip with a late flourish.
After Tuukka Rask (27 saves) robbed Tomas Fleischmann on one end, Daniel Paille beat Thomas on the other. His first goal of the season was assisted by Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski (playing his third straight game) at 3:45 in the first period. Dougie Hamilton’s return to the lineup was productive as he scored a power-play goal (Boston’s third of the season) later in the first. Zdeno Chara set the screen in front so Thomas couldn’t really see the shot.
Like people on vacation in Florida, the Bruins went to sleep for much of the game after they built the early 2-0 lead. The Panthers have lost six-of-seven for a reason. Ex-Providence Bruin Kris Versteeg beat Rask high glove side in the second period, then the immortal Jesse Winchester tied it up with a goal befitting a guy that hadn’t scored an NHL goal since December 2011 (not pretty). Smith and the B’s must have known that nobody was watching so he put this game out of its misery before it went to overtime or, heaven forbid, a shootout.
Saturday night (7, NESN) at Tampa Bay (5-2-0) should be much more entertaining and, hopefully, less sloppy.
What they'll be saying: I’m not big on hammering home jokes that everyone has already burned out on but it is always shocking when you see how many empty seats there are at what should have been a marquee game for the Panthers. Nobody will feel bad for Thomas with the shameful way he left Boston, but you can’t help but note what a pathetic end this is to a great NHL career. Playing on a terrible team with nobody watching, makes you want to move back to the bunker, huh Tim?
Adam McQuaid was the surprise healthy scratch as Bruins head coach Claude Julien continues to shuffle his defensive corps. All three young defensemen had points: Hamilton (goal), Bartkowski (assist) and Krug (assist). Smith has points in three straight games (1 goal, 2 assists) after his game-winner. Viewed by many is a throw-in from the Tyler Segin-Loui Eriksson deal, Smith has been great, with one goal and three assists in six games. By having three different guys all score their first goals of the season tonight, Boston showed off the depth that we always hear so much about.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat reporter Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate