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Bruins 4, Panthers 1 @NHL

BOSTON (AP) - Boston's defense helped overcome the loss of Brian Leetch.

Hannu Toivonen made 15 saves in the third period and finished with 29 in the Bruins' 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.

``We've been through a fair amount of adversity from the get-go,'' Bruins coach Mike Sullivan said. ``I thought our defensemen stepped up, made great decisions and were the key to our success tonight.''

Boston dressed seven rookies, including three on defense, while playing without top free-agent acquisitions Leetch (knee) and Alexei Zhamnov (shoulder) and starting goalie Andrew Raycroft (hamstring).

``Losing a guy like Leetch is going to effect us,'' Toivonen said. ``But tonight was one of our best defensive efforts of the year.''

Brad Boyes, Glen Murray, Jiri Slegr and Travis Green scored for the Bruins, and Sergei Samsonov added two assists. Joel Kwiatkowski had the lone goal for Florida, winless in its last four games.

Boyes and Murray scored in a 3:52 span of the first period to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead. Boyes opened the scoring, converting a pass from Shawn McEachern after McEachern stole the puck from Roberto Luongo behind the net. Luongo has struggled against Boston this season, giving up eight goals in two games.

``In the first period, I made a mistake on their first goal and it cost us,'' Luongo said. ``Under the new rules, guys are allowed to stand in the crease and we have to defend that.''

Slegr made it 3-0 30 seconds into the third period during a two-man advantage. Slegr scored after Branislav Mezei received a minor penalty following a double minor to Martin Gelinas. Gelinas received an additional minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after mocking the referee twice before heading to the penalty box. The goal snapped an 0-for-16 drought on the power play for Boston.

``With Andrew out, we are hoping Hannu could rise up and he has done more than that,'' Bruins veteran defenseman Hal Gill said.

Green added an empty-net goal for Boston, 3-0-4 in its last seven games.

Notes: Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque rejoined the Bruins on Thursday as a coaching consultant. The 44-year-old Bourque will work with the team at practice two to four times a week, starting Friday. ... Boston recalled Milan Jurcina and Eric Nickulas from Providence. ... The Bruins allowed less than three goals for the second time in the last 10. ... Four of the Bruins' six wins this season have come against Florida and Pittsburgh.

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