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Bruins silence Panthers, off to best start in 36 years

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. — Zdeno Chara is known for his great defense and his physical play, but it was his spectacular goal Sunday afternoon that had his Boston Bruins teammates talking.

The 6-foot-9 former Norris Trophy winner channeled Pavel Datsyuk with a spin-o-rama followed by a rooftop backhand from close range for a goal that proved the game-winner in Boston's 4-1 victory against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center.

"That was a beauty," said forward Daniel Paille, who had an empty-net goal and an assist for Boston. "It definitely should be one of the highlights for the night. He made a great play obviously with the spin-o-rama. I think what was more amazing was the backhander. When you see that replay, you realize there wasn't that much room there. He roofed it pretty good. Props to Z for that."

Chara gave Boston a 2-0 lead at 13:52 of the first period when he took a pass from Brad Marchand near the blue line, spun counterclockwise to get away from Panthers rookie Jonathan Huberdeau and then flipped a high backhand that beat Jacob Markstrom to the glove side.

"I think it just happened," Chara said. "Obviously you can't really plan that kind of a goal, those kind of moves. My game is simple. That's not my priority. But I'm glad and happy we got a lead with that goal."

Chara was rather nonchalant about his goal after the game, saying he didn't know if it was the most spectacular of his career.

For Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, though, it wasn't anything he hadn't seen before.

"Pretty sick," Rask said. "The pass was kind of behind him a bit, so he had to spin around. It was just a sick goal, but he's done that a couple times in practice."

Chara's goal help Rask continue his mastery of the Panthers. Rask, who came in with a 0.97 goals-against average and a .969 save percentage against Florida, made 34 saves as he improved to 5-1 against the Panthers.

Milan Lucic and Chris Kelly also scored for the Bruins (11-2-2), who are off to their best start since the 1976-77 season. Surprisingly, Paille's goal game them their first three-goal lead of the season.

"I don't mind one-goal games," Kelly said. "It keeps you on your toes for 60 minutes."

Kelly's goal wasn't nearly as spectacular as Chara's, but it was his first of the season. In truth, Kelly was the beneficiary of a lucky break.

With the Bruins on the power play with a 2-1 lead in the second period, Paille wound up for a slap shot from the high slot, but backchecking Peter Mueller got Paille's stick on the way down. The puck went slowly to the left of the net, through the legs of Florida defenseman Mike Weaver and right onto the stick of Kelly, who had an easy tap-in past Markstrom.

"Kells has been battling pretty hard all year," Paille said. "He just hasn't gotten the bounces until today. It was just him going to the net and being at the right place. It was huge for him to get that first one."

Kelly had been limited to four assists in Boston's first 14 games after scoring 20 goals last season.

"I thought it was a great pass from Paille," Kelly said, laughing. "It was a lucky bounce, but I'll take it.

"Obviously, you want to score and it's the 15th game. I try to work on other things. When you're not scoring, you try to bring other things to the table. I've been trying to focus on that and not really on the other side."

Boston, which came in having played an NHL-low 14 games, began a stretch of 34 games in 63 days.

Tomas Kopecky scored for the Panthers (5-9-4), who have lost seven of eight and five in a row at home. It's Florida's longest home losing streak since March 2011.

"This will turn around somewhere along the line," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "There’s a clear understanding on how we have to play and we can preach it and we can ask it; for the most part, we’ve done a lot of talking, now it’s time for more direct action.”

Markstrom, getting a second consecutive start after making his season debut Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, stopped 28 shots.

Already playing without forwards Kris Versteeg (upper body) and Scottie Upshall (ankle), and defenseman Ed Jonavoski (knee), the Panthers also had to scratch veteran defenseman Filip Kuba because of an upper-body injury.

Boston came in leading the NHL in penalty killing with a 94.4 percent success rate, and killed off four Florida power plays to extend its successful streak to 21 consecutive kills.

"That's something we're trying to strive on all year and we're doing it night in and night out so far," Paille said. "One thing we want to do is not take it for granted and we're being patient and we're being positioned well. The rest of the year should be all right as long as we play like that."

Florida has one power-play goal in its last 24 opportunities and is 0-for-17 during its home losing streak.

Trailing 3-1, Florida had a four-minute power play spanning the end of the second period and the start of the third, but was outshot 3-0 during those four minutes.

"It's pretty obvious that our power play needs to wake up," Mueller said. "We've had a lot of opportunities, it just seems that we can't get anything going on it. I'll take a hit on it. We just need to figure out a good formula. We've got the players to do it, we've just got to start clicking. Once we get a goal, we can just start relaxing. It just seems like we're trying to go out there and trying to run too many plays instead of just settling down and remember that we have the man advantage."

Lucic opened the scoring at 7:57 off a faceoff. After David Krejci beat Marcel Goc cleanly, Lucic fired a wrist shot that beat Markstrom low to the stick side.

Boston had several chances to add to its lead after Kelly's goal in the second period, but Markstrom robbed former Panthers forward Nathan Horton a couple of times, Tyler Seguin hit the post with a wrist shot, and Rich Peverley was stopped on a short-handed breakaway in the final minute.

Rask wasn't severely tested in the third period, but he did make a flashy glove save on a short backhand by Goc.

"We had to be ready right from the start," Rask said. "Then we got those goals and we let up and they got one and it was back and forth there, but I thought at the end we just held together."

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