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Marchand lifts Bruins past Panthers in overtime

by Matt Kalman

BOSTON -- Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand is hot at the right time.

The Bruins have been playing without center David Krejci and defensemen Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Torey Krug, but they have won three in a row.

A lot of their success can be attributed to Marchand, who scored with 1:33 left in overtime Tuesday to give the Boston Bruins a 2-1 win against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.

Marchand had one goal and three points in the first 11 games. He has four goals and six points in the past three games after he had two points against the Panthers. No player likes their production to resemble a roller coaster, but Marchand has learned how to deal with it over the years.

"That's hockey. It happens to all the top guys every year, and it happens to every player every year," Marchand said. "You just want to try to ride the waves, not get too low when you're not scoring, and not get too high when you are scoring. Both situations are going to end at some point, and you just want to stay even-keeled."

After the Bruins gained possession at center ice, Dougie Hamilton hit Marchand with a pass just outside the Florida blue line. Marchand gained the zone and eluded Panthers defenseman Dylan Olsen near the hash marks before he beat goaltender Roberto Luongo up high.

Marchand assisted on Patrice Bergeron's goal in the second period. The line of Marchand, Bergeron and Reilly Smith has 10 points in the past three games.

"I still think they can play even better," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We're talking about one guy here right now that's really scoring goals, and that's not to discredit the other two because [Bergeron] is arguably our best player on most nights. He still works hard and stuff like that. But I think, again, not the chemistry, but I think the puck movement between them still isn't quite where we've seen it before. There's still room for improvement and they just got to keep working at it, because they've got one guy right now that's really hot."

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask stopped 18 of 19 shots. Boston (8-6-0) has won nine in a row against Florida and seven straight against the Panthers at TD Garden dating to Dec. 8, 2011.

The Panthers (4-2-4) have not lost in regulation on the road (2-0-4). Luongo finished with 23 saves on 25 shots, and Jussi Jokinen scored. Florida is 4-0-3 in its past seven games; their past four games have been 2-1 scores and they've won twice.

The Panthers had two of the best chances to take the lead in the third period; Vincent Trocheck and Erik Gudbranson each hit the post.

"It was a hard-fought battle," Luongo said. "It's a tough building to play in. We battled hard again. We were very disciplined. We didn't take any penalties tonight, which was really good. It came down to overtime. Their guy made a hell of a play on the goal. Maybe I was a little too deep, but hell of a play and hell of a shot there. It's a good point for us, but obviously we want more than that."

The Panthers scored first in the second period. Jokinen one-timed a Brad Boyes pass from the high slot past Rask at 4:04.

It took the Bruins 6:25 to land their first shot on goal in the second period, but eventually they answered the Panthers' goal. After Smith battled with two Panthers, Marchand grabbed the puck and fed Bergeron at the left dot. Bergeron's turnaround slap shot beat Luongo up high at 7:29.

Marchand scored 25 goals for the Bruins last season, but 2013-14 was considered a disappointment because he was inconsistent in the regular season and then didn't score in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A slow start turned up the heat, but Marchand now seems to be rolling in the right direction.

"I think tonight was a real big step forward for us," Marchand said. "We played with a lot more confidence than we have in the past number of games, and it seems like were able to make plays now and hold on. I think that's one thing we weren't doing very well early on. We were throwing it away a lot, and weren't supporting each other very well. But our legs seemed to be under us, we seemed to be more comfortable with the puck, and we felt really good tonight."

The Bruins showed a video tribute to forward Shawn Thornton, who's with the Panthers after seven seasons in Boston. He received a standing ovation during the second television timeout.

"It's pretty touching you know. Very, very kind ... to get a standing ovation in a visiting arena is pretty special and I appreciate it," said Thornton, who makes his offseason home in Boston was has the Shawn Thornton Foundation based in Massachusetts. "The fans have always been great to me here and again tonight. It's pretty nice."

The Bruins play the Edmonton Oilers here Thursday. The Panthers play their second game of this road trip against the Philadelphia Flyers.

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