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Spooner's Two Goals Carry Bruins over Panthers, 3-1/F

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The Bruins played a 60-minute, 200-ft game of hockey, and Ryan Spooner added two goals for a divisional win at home on Saturday.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON, MA -- The Bruins hosted the Florida Panthers on Saturday that featured two teams within a point of each other in the Eastern Conference standings. Boston saw Colin Miller return to the lineup for the first time in nearly a week, while Florida had to go without a couple key players who didn't make the trip.

The game opened up with some back and forth chances, but little finish. Lots of rush attacks, good cycling, and open shooting lanes. Yet most chances shot went wide, or were stick-checked before the puck was sent on its way. Brad Marchand best showcased this frustrating "close-but-not-quite" opening ten minutes with a deke from his knees, because he is good at hockey.

The Bruins held the Panthers in check for the majority of the period, and were able to establish zone time late. Eventually, Boston's third line turned a Florida turnover into a shot from the point, and Ryan Spooner took flight, deflecting the goal in front before it tumbled past Roberto Luongo.

The goal would be reviewed, but the height of contact was inconclusive and the call on the ice stood. A few minutes later, old friend Shawn Thornton appeared on the ice to square off against the Bruins' 3rd line, and an off-target pass led Thornton to give a shoulder-shiver to the face of Jimmy Hayes

Hayes would go to the locker room, and did not appear for for the rest of the 1st period, but would return to the game at the start of the 2nd. After a flurry of close chances in the final minute of play, Boston took a 1-0 lead into the locker room after the opening 20 minutes.

The 2nd period started slow for both teams, and the Bruins held the Panthers to a lone shot on goal in the opening 12 minutes, a measley dump-in on net by Shawn Thornton. Boston on the other hand had some great one-time chances, consistent zone time, and nice breakout transition plays, and eventually Zac Rinaldo was able to draw a tripping penalty from Ekblad, which was followed by matching roughing minors.

On the powerplay, the Bruins held the puck in the Panthers for nearly a full two minutes, cycling and protecting the puck from Florida's lackluster PK effort. Great feeds from the boards to the slot turned into scoring chances, but it wasn't until Ryan Spooner took the puck at the dot, looked off Luongo, and rifled the puck five-hole that the Bruins would cash in on the man advantage.

Spooner has been serviceable even strength. But he is simply outstanding on the power play. Patrice Bergeron is one of the many recognizing Spooner's potential when he's on his game.

I think when he’s, you know, playing the way he’s been playing today, you know, moving his feet and being really hard on the puck and taking care of it and making some great plays. I thought, you know, he’s definitely a big addition to our lineup. He’s a guy that keeps learning and a young guy and you know, I can’t say enough about the way he sees the ice. So you know, he’s definitely a threat to when he’s on his game and on the ice and making plays like that.

The last good chance of the period for Boston didn't result in a shot on goal. With Matt Beleskey entering the zone and trying to lean in toward the slot, the puck was knocked off his stick. The net wasn't empty though, as Gudbranson lost his footing, and went five-hole on Luongo.

Both were shaken up, but soon got to their feet and stayed in the game. On to the 3rd!

Boston essentially played prevent defense for the final 20 minutes, as they were out-shot 14-5, and were a -9 in team CorsiFor. Thankfully the spark that was Shawn Thornton didn't lead a rally for a comeback. In the middle of the 3rd, Zac Rinaldo made a bad hit on Connor Brickley, and Shawn Thornton took offense. All of Boston had mixed emotions. People were cheering hesitantly, booing while questioning existence. I saw one man cry gritty tears.

Ultimately, they were giving matching double-minors, which was a win for both teams. Was Rinaldo surprised by Thornton's reaction?

No, he’s – Thorts is a tough guy and I’m not surprised. I mean I would probably do the same thing if I was in his situation, down – it was 2-nothing at the time – and they needed something so he stepped up to the plate and I would do the same thing.

Florida kept the pressure though, and after some good possession in the offensive zone, former Bruin Reilly Smith squeaked a slapper by Tuukka Rask.

It would be the last good chance for the Cats, however. The Bruins held off Panther chance after Panther chance with layers of defense. Reilly Smith was certainly aware of just how ineffective their offense was during this game.

Yeah, there wasn’t much out there. I felt like we didn't play our game right from the get-go. I felt like they controlled the pace and we let them off the hook... Yeah we didn’t find balance at the end of the game. That’s pretty much all it came down to.

And when it was time to pull Luongo for the extra skater, Florida picked the absolute worst time. With a little under 90 seconds left in the game, Jagr carried the puck into the zone, and Luongo made a break for the bench. Thankfully, Brad Marchand--still good at hockey--and Patrice Bergeron--good at everything--have a knack for creating turnovers and turning them into offensive chances.

Oh man. That slow, slow skate of shame Luongo makes back to his net after the goal. Honestly, Roberto Luongo deserved better in this game. He made some great saves and was peppered with really good scoring chances, only allowing one bad goal.

Marchand's 14th goal of the season came just as Luongo was skating off the ice, and sealed the victory for the Bruins. Bergeron's poke-checking assist gave him 25 points in his last 25 games. And the Bruins have now won 9 straight games at TD Garden against the Florida Panthers.

Dennis Seidenberg certainly was aware of the standings, and realized just how big of a win this was for the team.

Very big. Like you said, they’re very close behind us I think in points, so for us to play and win this game was pretty big. I mean pushing them back down and us moving up closer to the top it’s important. We just have to keep going and keep working on our consistency.

The Bruins return to the Garden on Monday night, as they host Peter Chiarelli and the streaking Edmonton Oilers.

Game Notes:

  • With the win, Rask is now 6-0-2 in his last 8 games, with a 1.53 GAA and .948 SV%
  • After a shaky start to the season, Boston has a better record over their last 25 games (16-6-3, 35pts) than the Montreal Canadiens (14-8-3, 31pts)
  • Spooner's two-goal game was the 3rd of his career and his first this season.
  • Dave Bolland this season at 5v5: 321st out of 336 qualified forwards in points/60, 313th out of 336 forwards in score-adjusted possession. (per )
  • Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid had a monstrous game in their own end, keeping Jaromir Jagr at 731 career goals and holding him without even a shot on goal.