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Bruins thump lowly Panthers, 4-1

Bruins thump lowly Panthers, 4-1

If you are struggling in the NHL this season, you have to hope that Florida is coming up soon on your calendar. The Bruins (9-5-1) received a gift from the scheduling Gods Thursday as they beat the Panthers (3-9-4), 4-1, at TD Garden. Boston came into the game having lost four of its last five but that was long forgotten as the B's sent Florida away with a seven-game losing streak.

The main attraction of this contest was relegated to the press box as former Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas is still out with a groin injury so he had to watch backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen (a BC product) give up three goals in the third period as the B’s finally came alive after yet another slow start. The Bruins showed a highlight reel of Thomas in the third period then flashed to him live on the Jumbotron where he got a standing ovation from the crowd.

“We seemed to get better as the game went on,” noted Bruins head coach Claude Julien. “The third period was definitely our best period. As coaches, we didn’t say much during the intermission (after the 1st). Sometimes the players have to work themselves out of it on their own.”

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David Krejci’s excellent season continued as he made it 1-0 in the second period with a long-distance slap shot through traffic. It was the first time in five games that Boston had scored first. Brad Marchand received an absolute gift of a goal early in the third period as the puck squirted through Clemmensen’s legs and all he had to do was knock it into the empty net.

“It’s been a while,” admitted Marchand (13 games to be exact since he scored a goal). “I missed one earlier so something was bound to go in. It’s frustrating, you want to contribute and you know you can pull your own weight.” The rout was on a few minutes later as Torey Krug finished off a pretty passing sequence from Chris Kelly and Reilly Smith.

Tuukka Rask’s (23 saves) shutout bid ended late in the third as Jesse Winchester (who viciously elbowed Kelly in the first period) deposited a rebound. Florida made up for that by handing Smith a goal as a turnover put him alone in front of Clemmensen. Boston’s reunion week ends on Saturday (7, NESN) with Phil Kessel and the Maple Leafs (10-5-0) coming back to the Garden for the first time since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in May.

What they'll be saying: Between Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley returning on Tuesday with Dallas then a rematch with Toronto and Kessel on Saturday, this had the distinct feel of the undercard particularly since Thomas couldn’t play. The B’s have to be psyched that with the Panthers in the Atlantic Division now, they’ll see them three more times. Rask improved to 9-1-0 against Florida with this victory. With his goal, Krug tied Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson (who won the Norris Trophy two years ago) for most goals by a defenseman this season. Whatever scout discovered Krug at Michigan State (keep in mind he wasn’t drafted) deserves a hefty raise, Krug looks like a complete steal.

Julien will never goad his team into needless fights but it has to be said that the Bruins play better (5-2-0 this season) when they are engaged physically. Once their hitting game picked up in the second period (24-16 for the game), they began to take control.

Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate