BOSTON — Whether it was a skate, pad, glove or even his face, Tuukka Rask always had something between the puck and the goal line.
Rask stopped all 41 shots he faced and got his first win of the season, and Milan Lucic added a natural hat trick by scoring the first three goals in Boston’s 4-0 victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
“I felt like a really, really busy guy,” Rask said.
Rask was 0-4-1 entering the game, spending most of the season backing up Tim Thomas during his 10-1 start. Thomas had already played two games this week, so Rask got the start and stopped everything — including one shot that took off his mask.
The Bruins needed the big performance from Rask in order to hold on to a slim lead until breaking it open late in the third period.
Boston opened the scoring on Lucic’s goal late in the first period, then didn’t score again until Lucic’s second goal with 5:18 left to play. Lucic poked in a rebound 15 seconds later and the hats started flying from the fans, who celebrated winning what had just been a very tight game moments before.
“Fortunately for us, Tuukka played the way that he did and we were able to get some goals there in the third to extend the lead,” said Lucic, who has 10 goals this season.
Shawn Thornton also scored and Nathan Horton and Patrice Bergeron had two assists each for the Bruins, who won their third straight.
It was Rask’s first win since May 5, when the Bruins won 4-1 at Philadelphia to take a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Flyers won the next four and Rask couldn’t reclaim the starting job with Thomas off to his strong start.
“Not the first win I’ve won with the Bruins, but it feels good,” Rask said.
Thomas got to rest and enjoy watching Rask and the rest of the Bruins hold Florida to 0 for 5 on the power play.
“Tuukka Rask was our power play problem. It wasn’t our power play,” Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. “We generated plenty of chances on the power play. I mean, when you’ve got a goalie that plays like that, that’s the power-play problem.”
Rask came up huge in the third when the Bruins went on just their second power play of the game and quickly allowed two great short-handed chances to the Panthers. Chris Wiggins had a breakaway, but shot wide of the net, then Bryan Allen was alone in the slot for a shot that Rask calmly snagged with his glove.
Boston precariously held on to a 1-0 lead on Lucic’s first-period goal until late in the third period when Lucic struck twice. He streaked up the boards and got in alone for a wrist shot over Tomas Vokoun’s glove. After the faceoff, Lucic was able to poke in a rebound that Vokoun couldn’t corral with 5:03 left.
Thornton completed the scoring with 3:56 left.
Rask stopped 16 in the first period, including a handful of point-blank shots after some sloppy puck handling by his teammates. Boston fans slowly regained their faith in the former starter and started cheering “Tuuuuk! Tuuuuk!” when he came up with some big saves late in the period.
“We wanted to go out there and give him a good effort and give him a win,” Lucic said. “He’s such a great goalie and we’re happy that we were able to get the win for him.”
Florida had shut out the Bruins in the last two meetings in Boston. The Bruins finally got one past Tomas Vokoun when Lucic lifted a shot high to the stick side for his eighth goal of the season. It was the Bruins’ first goal at home against Florida since Feb. 24, 2009. The Panthers won both games in Boston last season with shutouts, including a 1-0 victory for Vokoun last November.
“The patience was there. We weren’t going to break,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “It was a matter of who was going to break first.”
NOTES: Johnny Boychuk played for the Bruins for the first time since breaking his forearm Oct. 23 against the Rangers. … Former Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman was booed during introductions and whenever he touched the puck.