After narrowly avoiding an embarrassing loss, the Boston Bruins look to continue their strong play on the road Thursday night when they visit the slumping Florida Panthers, a team they have only beaten once in the last eight meetings.
The Bruins (30-23-6), who are tied with the Philadelphia Flyers for seventh in the Eastern Conference, squandered a two-goal lead in the final 63 seconds of the third period Tuesday, but were able to recover when David Krejci scored the winning shootout goal to clinch a 3-2 win at Carolina.
"For 59 minutes, I thought we played some pretty good hockey," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It's unfortunate that some mistakes at the end ended up hurting us, as far as going into overtime and into the shootout. We had our best players out there, and they didn't do the job in that last minute."
|If the Bruins want to remain in a playoff position they will have to begin by defeating the struggling Panthers tonight in Sunrise, Fla. Boston has beat Florida only once in their last eight meetings. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Overcoming the last-minute collapse helped Boston improve to 2-0-1 during its five-game road trip. The team has been strong on the road all season, going 16-10-3 to tie Ottawa and the Flyers for second in the East with 35 points.
"This team is growing. We're coming together," said Bruins center Marc Savard, who had a goal and an assist Tuesday.
Savard has been outstanding on the road, getting 35 of his league-leading 52 assists and 43 of his team-high 66 points. He has only been held off the scoresheet in four games away from Boston, and has four points in the last two games.
Savard has tallied 22 assists and 29 points in his last 21 games against Florida (27-29-6), including 12 points in 10 games at Sunrise, Fla. He assisted on two goals - both by Zdeno Chara - in the last matchup there a 4-3 victory Nov. 29 that snapped a six-game slide to the Panthers.
Savard notched another assist and Chara scored another goal in the following meeting on Feb. 9, but the Bruins lost 6-3 at home despite outshooting Florida 41-27.
Tim Thomas, who had 45 saves and another in the shootout on Tuesday, gave up all six goals in that loss. He is 1-5-1 with a 4.86 goals-against average in seven career games against the Panthers.
The All-Star netminder, though, has been solid over his last five road starts, going 4-0-1 with a 1.75 GAA and a .946 save percentage.
The Panthers are coming off their own third-period meltdown, wasting a two-goal lead by allowing three goals in the final stanza - two in the last 3:20 - to fall 3-2 at Pittsburgh for their fourth loss in five games.
"We stuck to our game plan early and often and were doing the little things correctly," Panthers defenseman Bryan Allen said. "But for whatever reason, we're kind of almost scared out there to play confident and stick to the system, and we turned the puck over and missed assignments and then the puck is in the net a few times."
The Panthers could use some more production out of captain Olli Jokinen, who has only one assist in the last four games since having his skate accidentally cut Richard Zednik's carotid artery in a loss at Buffalo on Feb. 10. Jokinen had extended his goal streak to five games in that contest prior to the scary incident.
The center leads the team with 29 goals and 59 points, and has seven goals and eight assists in the last eight games against Boston.