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Bruins complete season-series sweep of Panthers

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Nothing these days can stop the Boston Bruins' dominance against the Florida Panthers. Having to play a second game in less than 24 hours didn't do it, nor did another strong performance by Roberto Luongo.

Torey Krug broke a 1-1 tie at 7:38 of the third period and Patrice Bergeron had a goal and an assist to help the Bruins beat the Panthers for an eighth consecutive time in a 5-2 win Sunday at BB&T???Center.

The victory completed a two-game Sunshine State sweep for the Bruins, who beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in a shootout Saturday.

"For playing a game less than 20 hours and having that kind of pace that we had to our game, I was pretty impressed with our team,"???Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Even though it was a 1-1 game after two, I thought we had lots of chances. Roberto played well for them. I???know we missed some chances and some scoring opportunities by missing the net, but he also made some good saves for them. Made it a game right till the end."

The end result, though, was the same for a Boston-Florida matchup as it has been for the past two seasons.

Florida hasn't beaten Boston since a 6-2 victory on March 15, 2012, getting outscored 33-10 during the streak.

Boston swept the season series 5-0, including a 4-1 victory at TD???Garden on Tuesday.

"They're still a benchmark, they're still the team that we have to gauge ourselves by,"???Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek said. "They're a disciplined team, by their systems, by their attitude, they have no panic to their game, they just keep plugging away, working at it, getting contributions from all their lines and they're OK with that.

"That's a message to our guys, that's where we need to be. That's a close game, but at the end of the day you've got to go by the results. We had an opportunity and we let that slip away."

The win was Boston's fifth in a row, its longest winning streak of the season. The Bruins earlier had four four-game winning streaks.

Andrej Meszaros and Jarome Iginla also scored for the Bruins, who moved ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins into first place in the Eastern Conference standings. Boston has 89 points to Pittsburgh's 88, although the Penguins have played one fewer game.

"It's important,"???Krug said. "It's one of our goals. Obviously it's not the main one, but we set our minds to something we want to accomplish it. It's one of the things we think about."

Chris Kelly scored an empty-net goal with 1:08 left.

Meszaros, acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, made his Bruins debut and played 20:36, the second-highest figure on the team behind only Zdeno Chara's 22:54.

Chad Johnson made a second consecutive start against the Panthers and stopped 20 shots. He made 23 saves in the game Tuesday.

Jimmy Hayes, a Boston native who grew up about 10 minutes from TD???Garden, scored twice for Florida. It was his first two-goal performance in 78 career games.

The 6-foot-6 Hayes used his size to score from close range each time.

"I have to continue to be a big forward,"???Hayes said. "In order to be successful, I have to be around that net and just try to find as many pucks as I can in front of that crease."

After stopping 25 shots for the Panthers' first shutout in almost two years in a 2-0 victory against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday, Luongo made 37 saves against the Bruins.

Luongo preserved a 1-1 tie early in the third period when he made a blocker save on Gregory Campbell on a shorthanded breakaway.

"They created a few odd-man rushes, especially in the third period,"???Luongo said. "I thought we played them well in the first 40 minutes. They had some shots, but they were mostly [outside] stuff, nothing too crazy.

"I would have liked to have made a few more saves there at least to keep it a one-goal game, but they have some good players there who can make some plays."

Krug beat Luongo for his 13th goal of the season with a backhand deke after taking a pass from Brad Marchand in the slot.

Krug is fourth among NHL?????????defensemen in goals behind only Erik Karlsson (17), Shea Weber (15) and Dustin Byfuglien (14).

"We were out there for a little bit,"?????????Krug said. "It seemed like their guys were a little bit tired and I thought I could jump up and beat a couple of guys. March made an unbelievable play and I?????????was lucky enough to put it in."

The teams then combined for three goals in 52 seconds.

Bergeron made it 3-1 at 11:21 with a second power-play goal for Boston when he one-timed Loui Eriksson's pass near the right faceoff dot.

Hayes cut the lead back to one at 11:50 when he poked home a loose puck lying on the goal line between Johnson's legs.

Iginla restored the two-goal cushion at 12:13 with a wrist shot from the slot that beat Luongo high to the blocker side.

It was the 550th goal of Iginla' career. Iginla moved into sole possession of 26th place on the NHL's all-time list, breaking a tie with Ron Francis. Next on the list with 556 goals is longtime Bruins forward Johnny Bucyk.

"You mostly don't think about [milestones],"?????????Iginla said. "I?????????try not to think about things like that or each shot and stuff. Today was 550 and I'm definitely thankful for it. It's been fun. I think back when I started. I?????????didn't set out those goals or whatever, but just enjoying this. Tonight our goal was to be tops in the conference. It was a really good win for us, especially with a short turnaround. I thought we all played well."

Boston dominated play in the first period, which ended in a scoreless tie mostly because of the strong play of Luongo. Eriksson also hit the post with a slap shot with 4:10 left in the period.

Hayes opened the scoring at 7:00 in the second period with a goal on a rebound. Hayes stood alone to the right of Johnson after the goalie stopped Nick Bjugstad's quick shot from the slot.

Meszaros tied the game at 9:58 with a power-play goal that was confirmed after being reviewed. With Florida killing a penalty for too many men on the ice, Meszaros' shot from the point found its way through a crowd and past Luongo.

Meszaros became the first defenseman to score in his Bruins debut since Sergei Gonchar in March of 2004.

The Bruins then took over in the third period.

"Right from the start, I?????????thought we had our legs and guys were dialed in," Johnson said. "We had some good chances there. Just missed some posts. We just stuck with it, didn't get frustrated and we got the results we wanted to in the third period."

Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson left the game midway through the third period with an apparent injury to his left leg after getting tangled with Marchand near the Florida blue line. Gudbranson was seen using crutches after the game.

Boston forward Daniel Paille left the game in the first period after taking a big hit from defenseman Ed Jovanovski along the boards. Paille was able to skate to the Boston bench before leaving for the dressing room.

Julien said after the game he was told the injury was "not very serious."

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