Sunrise, Florida -- The Boston Bruins fell to the Florida Panthers, 7-2, Saturday night at the BankAtlantic Center in suburban Miami. The Panthers got three goals in the first period to put the Bruins in an early hole and helped Florida's future Hall of Fame goalie, Ed Belfour, cruise to his 17th victory of the season and the 474th win of his illustrious NHL career.
"A bad day in Florida beats a good day just about anywhere else," says the familiar farcical commercial on NESN, but that does not hold true when you are gunning for a playoff spot in the NHL -- especially in the Eastern Conference where relatively few points separate the contenders and also-rans.
The Bruins, who came in with a four game winning streak, have reintroduced themselves to the playoff picture. However, perhaps succumbing to a combination of injuries and fatigue, the B's skated out of the gate flat against their Eastern rival, and the Panthers pressured, pounced on the puck and pounded the Boston goal to give them an early 3-0 pillow.
Ville Peltonen, Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton
all found the net for Florida in the first.
Boston's goalie Tim Thomas
, himself on a four game victory bender, let in three in his one period of action, but made 16 saves on 19 shots to give the B's at least an outside chance at getting back into the game in the second. Perhaps in an effort to save the 32-year old netminder for Monday night's game in Boston, "The Tank" was pulled in favor of B's back-up Hannu Toivonen to start the second stanza.
In relief of Thomas, Toivonen had some early success against the Panthers in the second, but it was not to last throughout the period as the Panther's Chris Gratton was left wide open in front of the young Finnish goalie and got an easy goal against the helpless Bruins keeper. Then, Florida's feisty captain Ollie Jokinen added another one, and put Florida up, 5-0.
Boston's Marc Savard
, one of the hottest scorers in the NHL, finally put the Bruins on the board at 14:09. Then, just a few seconds later, Brad Boyes added one for Boston with 5:03 remaining in the middle session to make the score 5-2 going into the second break.
The third period delivered more of the same.
Florida's Martin Gelinas scored at 5:35 and Gratton added his second goal of the evening at 7:12 to make the final score 7-2.
Boston returns to action on Monday night in Boston versus the Atlanta Thrashers.