BOSTON -- The Florida Panthers made a potentially franchise-altering trade Tuesday that might result in a brighter future.
Krejci scored a hat trick and goaltender Chad Johnson remained perfect at TD Garden in a 4-1 Bruins win on the day the Panthers reacquired goaltender Roberto Luongo from the Vancouver Canucks.
Krejci scored one goal in each period, with the third one going into an empty net with 13.3 seconds left. Jarome Iginla also scored for the Bruins, who are 5-1-2 in their past eight games.
"First period, I thought it was a really good period by our team," Krejci said after his third career hat trick. "Second, we kind of got away from our game, but got a lead 3-0 in the third period. I thought we played OK with the lead, but there's still some areas in our game we have to improve. We know we're going to be playing against better teams, so we have to work on some defensive stuff and get ready before the playoffs arrive."
Johnson made 23 saves and is 7-0-0 at home. The Bruins have won two in a row after they went 0-1-1 in their first two games coming out of the Olympic break. Boston allowed 12 goals in its prior three games, but coach Claude Julien said he saw some improvements.
"I still thought like defensively, we've got to tighten up some more," Julien said. "And you know, I felt the second period wasn't a very good period for us. We kind of gave them an opportunity to get some momentum back even though we scored the only goal. They were probably the better team that second period. So we came out a little bit better in the third, and you know, overall, it's a good game, but you know, where we want to be and the type of team we want to be also is, we've got to be a little bit better defensively. Too many good scoring opportunities and too many defensive breakdowns."
Tim Thomas made 35 saves for the Panthers (23-32-7). But most of the focus the day before the NHL Trade Deadline was on the return of Luongo, who played for the Panthers from 2000-06. Florida also acquired forward Steve Anthony in exchange for forward Shawn Matthias and goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
Florida coach Peter Horachek did not want to use the busy day off the ice (the Panthers also traded defenseman Mike Weaver to the Montreal Canadiens and signed forward Brad Boyes to a two-year contract extension) as an excuse.
"I think that's a natural reaction a little bit. There's a lot of people thinking, 'What's going on? Tomorrow at 3 o'clock, what's happening there? Am I next? What's going on?' I don't know," said Horachek, whose team was outshot 39-24. "But those are excuses. And I don't think that as professionals, I guess, you can't let that go in. It's a business, you've got to understand that sometimes you're going to be traded, and sometimes you're not, and you can only do what you have to do. You still have to go out and play.
"[The Bruins] may be in a different situation because they're at the top of the heap, and they're probably not feeling maybe threatened, but they play hard and play well, and that's the benchmark. That's the team you have to gauge yourself by. When you compete against that team on a night-to-night basis, then that's when you're competing for playoff spots."
The Bruins (39-17-5), who allowed the first goal in each of their prior three games, played from ahead against the Panthers. It took 7:29 for Krejci to get Boston on the scoreboard; the center intercepted a Tom Gilbert pass down low and beat Thomas with a high shot from the slot. Krejci earlier intercepted a pass at the red line and dumped the puck into the Florida end.
Iginla put the Bruins ahead 2-0 at 11:01. He made a cross-ice pass to Jordan Caron, then one-timed a rebound of Caron's shot past Thomas from the right faceoff dot. The Bruins outshot the Panthers 14-7 in the first period.
Krejci extended the Bruins' lead to 3-0 with a wrist shot from the high slot high to the stick side at 19:12 of the second period. Florida defenseman Dylan Olsen blocked Kevan Miller's point shot, but the deflection went to a wide-open Krejci.
Brian Campbell scored for Florida at 12:47 of the third period on a spinning backhand from the blue line. Over the course of the game, the Panthers hit the post at least four times.
"I try and think of it positive and think that I was in good position and they were forced to make a good shot," Johnson said. "It's tough, you know, a guy comes down and he is at the hash marks taking a slapper, you just try and be bigger, react as much as possible. Yeah, I definitely got lucky on probably three or four occasions. I don't know, maybe I was in good position; I was forcing them to make a shot. Yeah I got lucky on a few of them, but it's nice to hear the post there every now and then and not hear them celebrate. So it's good."
Boston will host the Washington Capitals on Thursday. Florida hosts the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.