Less than 24 hours before the 2014 NHL trade deadline (3 p.m. Wednesday), all was well with the Bruins as they rolled, 4-1, over the Panthers Tuesday night at TD Garden behind David Krejci’s fifth career hat trick (third regular season). Chad Johnson made 23 saves as Boston (39-17-5) remained three points behind Pittsburgh for first place in the Eastern Conference. Florida (23-32-7) fell to 0-4 against the B’s this season with one more meeting left.
What does it feel like to play with so many trade rumors swirling?
“That’ll be over by tomorrow,” noted Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “The players will be on edge at practice but that’s part of the game and being a pro.”
It certainly helped Tuesday that Boston was able to score the first goal for the first time in the last four games. Krejci stole the puck behind Florida’s net then wheeled around to beat Thomas 7:29 into the contest. After a juicy rebound by Thomas, Jarome Iginla made it 2-0 less than four minutes later. Krejci’s snipe with 47 seconds left in the second period increased the lead to 3-0 and totally deflated the hapless Panthers.
“(Krejci) was always pass-first but he’s playing the point on the power play and he seems to have more confidence in his shot so it’s nice to see him use it," Julien noted.
The only reason that Johnson didn’t earn a shutout is that Brian Campbell’s backhander deflected off Matt Bartkowski’s stick and changed direction for Florida’s lone goal. Krejci’s empty netter gave the fans that stayed the whole way one final thing to cheer, with many throwing their hats on the ice.
“We’re doing everything we can to get first place in the division and Eastern Conference,” explained Krejci. “Home ice in the playoffs always helps. We still have stuff to improve on the defensive side but the puck has been going in the net (16 goals in four games since Olympic break) for us.”
The B’s host the Capitals (29-23-10) on Thursday (7 p.m., NESN) at the Garden.
What they'll be saying: Jordan Caron hadn’t appeared in a game since Jan. 27 so it was a little fishy that the B’s would put him in the lineup.
Loui Eriksson was a healthy scratch but Julien said that he’d play on Thursday and he wasn’t going to be traded.
In possibly his last game in black and gold, Caron had an assist (his first of the season) and was plus-2 with three shots on goal in 12:18 on the third line.
Old friend Tim Thomas, who will be joined by old rival Roberto Luongo, had 35 saves for the Panthers
The Bruins have outscored the Panthers 17-6 in their four victories against them this season. Boston is at Florida on Sunday where there they could see Luongo.
For those that want fighting to be banned from the league, please note that Boston is 20-9-0 this season when they have at least one fight. Tuesday, Milan Lucic dropped the gloves with Krys Barch, who later squared off with Shawn Thornton.
Boston’s top line of Krejci, Iginla and Milan Lucic continues to put up big numbers. In its last eight games: Krejci has five goals and five assists, Iginla has four goals and eight assists and Lucic has four goals and six assists. They could have had more as well since Thomas made an unbelievable kick save on Krejci in the third period.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate