BOSTON — Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask was named the No. 1 star of Thursday night’s 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers.
But don’t get the idea Rask had to stand on his head to lead his team to only its second win in the last six games. This was a much better defensive effort by the Bruins, who kept the Panthers winless (0-3-4).
“Today was a step in the right direction. Hopefully we can keep that going Saturday,” Rask said after coming within 5:35 of his second shutout of the season. “Compared to the past couple of games we’ve been playing, I thought the quality of chances we gave up today was not even close to being as bad as it’s been in the past couple of games.
“I think it’s good. We’re trying hard and today our (defensemen) blocked a lot of shots and our forwards blocked a lot of shots, too; and that helps a lot.”
Center David Krejci, left winger Brad Marchand, defenseman Torey Krug and right winger Reilly Smith scored for the Bruins, who scored three times in the third period.
Center Jesse Winchester (No. 4) broke Rask’s shutout bid on a rebound of a shot by fellow center Nick Bjugstad.
Rask, beating Florida for the eighth straight time (9-1 lifetime), wasn’t severely tested but made the stops he had to make, 23 in all, and almost had his 18th career shutout in the second game of his team’s five-game homestand.
But his night was fairly quiet.
“We got back to doing those little things that make us a good team,” said Krug, whose sixth goal of the season tied him with Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for the league lead among defensemen. “For us, using that to continue into the next game, doing those little things and taking care of the puck, getting our forecheck going. That’s what makes us a good team.”
Krejci scored his third goal of the season, beating goalie Scott Clemmensen from the blue line 7:17 into the second period after a strong Bruins forecheck.
Clemmensen, who played his college hockey at Boston College and came in with a 2.27 lifetime goals-against-average against Boston, played well in only his third game of the season. But he let a rebound of a Dennis Seidenberg shot (tipped by Loui Eriksson) sit loose in the crease and Marchand slid it home at 4:09 of the third period to break a 12-game goal-scoring drought.
Krug scored at 8:57 and Smith, who also posted an assist, scored his second goal of the year on a giveaway by left winger Tomas Fleischman with 1:47 left as the Bruins finished off their fifth straight win over the Panthers.
“I think the score is probably not overly indicative of the hockey game,” said Florida coach Kevin Dineen. “At the end of the day, there’s only one thing that matters and that’s the two points at the end of the night. We’re going to continue to search for a way to find a complete game that’ll make a difference.”
Bruins center Chris Kelly left the ice in the first period after taking an elbow to the head from Winchester. No penalty was called but Boston center Gregory Campbell went after Winchester.
Kelly quickly returned and later set up Krug for his goal.
The Bruins killed all four Florida power plays and have killed 15 straight since giving up five in a row. Florida fell to 5-for-54 on the power play for the year.
“Power play is making a big difference in our season,” said Dineen. “It’s worked for us in the past and it’s something we’ve got to get going to change the tide of games right now. I think certainly players understand that, and we feel it as well as coaches.”
NOTES: Former Bruins G Tim Thomas took part in Florida’s morning skate but didn’t dress for his return to Boston. Expected to return this weekend from his second injury with his new team, Thomas didn’t meet with the media. He received a big ovation from the crowd when shown on the video screen in the third period. After Boston’s morning skate, coach Claude Julien scoffed at the notion Thomas won the championship for the club in 2011. “You don’t win a Stanley Cup just with a goaltender,” Julien said. Thomas lost to the Bruins in Florida on Oct. 17, surrendering a soft winning goal. … Former Boston RW Brad Boyes was a healthy scratch for Florida. … The Bruins continue their homestand against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, while the Panthers play the Senators in Ottawa on Saturday and the Rangers in New York on Sunday. … Among the scouts on the press level were Phoenix Coyotes general manager Don Maloney, plus Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe, the top two executives in the Edmonton Oilers organization.