On Monday night the Boston Bruins fell to the Florida Panthers, 3-2, at the TD Banknorth Garden in a game that, previous to the drop of the puck, could have been billed as a contest of teams going in opposite directions.
The homestanding Bruins, winners of their last 4, looked to continue to scratch their way out of the Eastern Conference second division, while the Florida Panthers on the other hand, were a wounded pack of cats -- losers of four of the last five, and missing Todd Bertuzzi, they hoped that their admittedly dull claws could keep them out of the conference cellar and stop their slide in Boston.
But the first period certainly didn't go as planned for the Black & Gold and by the time the kiddie squads were on the ice for the first intermission, the Bruins were down 1-0.
On the power play, the Panther's Martin Gelinas took a Stephen Weiss pass and slid it behind B's goalkeeper Tim Thomas
at 15:14. And at the other end of the ice, Florida goalie Alex Auld, late of the Vancouver Canucks, was perfect and stopped all 12 Boston shots in the first period.
There was more of the same for the home team in the second stanza, as the Bruins looked as if they felt the effect of three games in four nights and Florida's Nathan Horton
took a feed from Olli Jokinen and deposited the puck behind the B's Thomas at 14:47.
Despite the two Florida markers in the middle session, Thomas was yeoman like in his efforts to keep Boston in the game and made several spectacular stops; especially notable because the Bruins nearly lost their number on goalie to a nasty collision.
Veteran center Joe Nieuwendyk bowled over the Boston netminder with around 13 minutes to play in the second stanza.
The crowd, and the Bruins bench, held their collective breath, as there was a slight delay while Thomas regained his wits. Thomas stayed in the game despite landing squarely on his head after being upturned by the Cornell alum and continued to make save after save to keep Boston close.
After the game, an obviously disappointed Thomas was able to joke that when the trainer came to test his awareness after hitting his head, he answered the question of "who are you" with, "I'm Batman" -- a la the popular candy bar commercial from several years ago.
That elicited a guffaw from the press corps in the very quiet Bruins dressing room, post game.
"I'm disappointed with the loss," said Thomas, quieting the laughter and getting very serious. "But at this point in the year, you have to learn not to get too high and not to get too low."
"[Tim] played pretty well," said Brad Stuart. "He gave us a chance to win the game, or at least to come back and tie.
"A lot of credit goes to him. We certainly didn't match his effort," he said.
Assistant captain Glen Murray, agreed, and said, "There's no question about it. We had a little bit of slow legs getting going and he kept us in it and made some unbelievable saves.
The third period gave the home crowd some hope as the B's took advantage of a scramble in front of Auld, and Murray scored his first of the evening, but a defensive miscue led Nieuwendyk to add insult to injury as he added a power play goal to the scoresheet at 10:10.
But Murray quickly scored his second of the game at 14:54, to put the Bruins right back into the game. It was too little too late, however, for a frustrated Boston squad that was unable to beat Auld in the last four minutes.
"Obviously, when you have a chance to be on the power play, it's not only that you have a man advantage, but you also have to create some momentum," said Boston captain Zdeno Chara
of the B's 0 for 6 on the pp. "We didn't get that and we were pretty flat."
Chara also admitted that it was frustration, which led to a few minor skirmishes in last three seconds of the contest. Those battles included the Bruins captain taking on Ottawa defenseman Bryan Allen while Panthers captain, Jokinen, garnered a 10-minute misconduct.
Thankfully, the Bruins do not have much time to dwell on the setback, however, and are back in action Wednesday when they travel to Pittsburgh for a Thanksgiving Eve game versus the Penguins. They return to the TD Banknorth Garden Friday, November 24th when they square off against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes at Noon.
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, at the TD Banknorth Garden Box Office, or by phone at 617.624.BEAR.