It took a four-game winning streak including two shootouts to do it, but the Florida Panthers are back at the .500 mark. They've been much better than a .500 club when facing the Boston Bruins in recent seasons.
The Panthers look to extend their streaks both against the Bruins and overall when the teams face off on Thursday night at the BankAtlantic Center.
Since falling to 8-12-1 after a 2-1 loss at Carolina on Nov. 17, the Panthers (12-12-1) have rebounded with four straight victories. The last two wins have come via shootout, 3-2 at home against the New York Rangers on Friday and 2-1 at Washington on Wednesday.
Tomas Vokoun stopped 32 shots in regulation, then denied eight of 11 Capitals in the shootout to improve his record to 12-10-0 in his first season with the Panthers. Florida is a perfect 3-0 in shootouts this season, with Vokoun in net for all of them.
Perhaps most impressively Wednesday, Vokoun and the Panthers defense held Washington star Alexander Ovechkin without a point for the first time in the Caps' last 10 games.
"To be able to keep those guys - Ovechkin - off the scoreboard was a huge job, especially in the overtime," said Florida's Jacques Martin, who broke a franchise record with his 84th victory as the team's coach. "I thought in the 4-on-3, the guys did an outstanding job of blocking shots. They showed a lot of desperation."
The Panthers have now won four straight for the first time since Feb. 24-March 3 - a run which began with a 7-2 home rout of the Bruins (12-8-2). That win was the sixth straight for Florida over Boston, and most of those meetings haven't been close.
The Panthers have outscored the Bruins 33-17 during the winning streak in the series, totaling 21 goals in three home games. The Bruins have not defeated Florida since a 4-1 victory in Boston on Nov. 3, 2005.
Center Olli Jokinen has been particularly impressive for the Panthers during the run against Boston, with five goals and seven assists in the six Panthers victories, including a goal and an assist in the Feb. 24 matchup.
Bruins goalie Tim Thomas has had a terrible time against Florida in his career, going 0-4-1 with a 5.02 goals-against average in five starts.
Although Thomas remains the regular starter in Boston, the Bruins may be tempted to give 20-year-old rookie Tuukka Rask his second consecutive start. A former Toronto Maple Leafs first-round draft choice, Rask has won both of his starts since being recalled from Providence of the AHL earlier this month while Manny Fernandez recovers from knee and back injuries.
Rask made 20 saves Monday night at Philadelphia as the Bruins beat the Flyers 6-3. He also was helped by Boston's highest scoring output since an 8-6 win at Los Angeles on Oct. 12.
Glen Murray scored two goals and Marc Savard added a goal and three assists for a Bruins team which has struggled to score with Patrice Bergeron on injured reserve due to a severe concussion.
Boston has managed two goals or fewer in 13 of its 22 games this season.
"Obviously we're trying to create some more offense for this hockey club and slowly but surely getting there," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Hopefully we can combine a good defensive effort with some goal scoring as well."
This contest is the third of a six-game road trip for the Bruins, who have split the first two games of the swing but won three of their past four overall.