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Panthers rout reeling Bruins 6-2

by Alain Poupart
SUNRISE, Fla. -- There were no easy answers after Thursday night's game at the BankAtlantic Center.

In one dressing room, center Stephen Weiss couldn't really say why the Florida Panthers suddenly have become dynamic on offense. In the other, the Boston Bruins were at a loss to explain their dismal showing of late.

Weiss was one of six players to score for Florida as the Panthers routed the Bruins 6-2.

With the victory, Florida moved within two points of the Bruins for the second seed position in the Eastern Conference standings. The Panthers also extended their lead over idle Washington in the Southeast Division to three points; each team has 12 games remaining.

"It's realistic now that we can catch some teams," Weiss said. "We've got to stop looking behind and start looking forward and push ourselves that way. It makes it easier, too, when you're looking ahead instead of always looking back to who's chasing you."

Weiss, Marcel Goc and Mikael Samuelsson each had a goal and an assist for the  Panthers, who beat the Bruins at home for the first time in six games over the last three seasons. John Madden, Tomas Kopecky and Wojtek Wolski had the other Florida goals and defenseman Brian Campbell had three assists.

It was the first time in 43 games since Dec. 5 that the Panthers scored at least five goals against a team other than Toronto. The Panthers had five goals in each of their three games against the Maple Leafs since that Dec. 5 game against Washington, including a 5-2 victory on Tuesday.

The Panthers have 11 goals over their last two games, their highest two-game total of the season.

That came after Florida was held under two goals four of the previous six games in addition to a 2-0 victory that included an empty-netter.

"I'm going to leave that one because I have no idea," Weiss said. "You know what -- we're playing well, we're doing the right things, we're just keeping it simple. We're just playing the right way. Sometimes being simple gets you goals instead of trying too hard."

Joe Corvo and Brian Rolston scored for Boston, which has lost four in a row for the first time this season. The Bruins have been outscored 21-8 during the losing streak, the first time they've lost four in a row in regulation since January 2010.

The loss concluded an 0-3 road trip during which Boston allowed 17 goals. It's the team's worst three-game defensive stretch since March 2008 when the Bruins allowed 19 goals in consecutive losses to Washington (10-2), Florida (1-0) and Toronto (8-2).

"That's Twilight Zone-ish," goalie Tim Thomas said after being beaten six times on 29 shots. "I don't know what we did, but we did something to put luck not on our favor, that's for sure.

"I haven't seen a run of bounces like this in a long time."

Boston's lead in the Northeast Division over Ottawa stayed at one point, but the Bruins now have only one game in hand. The Senators can pass them by beating Montreal on Friday

The struggles continued for Thomas, last year's Vezina Trophy winner. He came into the game having gone 2-4-0 with a 3.92 goals-against average in his previous seven outings.

"I don't know if I've ever quite been a part of a run like this," Thomas said. "Generally you just put it behind you and move on to the next one, but we've been doing that for a few games in a row and we're just stuck in the same place. I don't have the answers."

Boston defenseman Andrew Ference played in his 700th NHL game.

Jose Theodore, making his sixth consecutive start, stopped 24 shots for the Panthers.

While evening the season series at two victories apiece, the Panthers improved to 3-0 on a homestand that concludes Saturday against Buffalo. Florida has won four in a row at home overall, its first four-game home winning streak since January 2010.

It's a far cry from Florida's four-game homestand in mid-February, when the Panthers went 0-3-1 against Ottawa, Washington, Anaheim and Minnesota.

"We want to play well at home to enthuse our fan base," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "Boston was well represented. You take them out of it. We enjoy those folks coming down to South Florida, but we want our fans to come into this building and be proud putting on that Panthers uniform and Panthers hat and enjoy a night out. We want to be homers, be a good home team. I think we've shown that."

Florida led 1-0 after the first period thanks to Samuelsson's power- play goal before Goc increased the lead only 38 seconds into the second. Standing between the circles, Goc tipped Campbell's high wrist shot from the middle of the ice at the blue line and the puck went between Thomas' legs and into the net.

After Corvo scored on a long wrist shot through traffic at 4:58, Weiss restored Florida's two-goal lead at 6:32. Thomas stopped Tomas Fleischmann's wrist shot from the right faceoff dot, but Weiss grabbed the rebound in front of the net while Corvo was jostling with Wolski and scored with a quick shot.

It was Weiss' first goal in eight games.

Madden completed the scoring in the second period at 15:27. Standing to the side of the net, he one-timed Jerred Smithson's pass from behind the net. The puck fluttered off Madden's stick, but it went over Thomas and into the net.

It was Madden's first point in 20 games this season and his first goal since last March 17 when he was a member of the Minnesota Wild. The 38-year-old veteran, who signed with Florida on Jan. 4, celebrated the occasion by punching the glass behind the net.

"Felt great," Madden said. "It was a big game, but just to score finally. I've had a lot of good chances previously in the games leading up. It's good to get it off my back and move forward."

Rolston made it 4-2 at 1:44 of the third with Boston's first power-play goal in seven games. The Bruins were 0-for-13 in the last six games and 0-for-1 against Florida before Rolston beat Theodore with a one-timer from inside the blue line.

It was Rolston's first goal in 10 games with the Bruins since he was acquired from the Islanders at the trade deadline.

"Obviously it's nice to get on the board and I certainly hope I can help," Rolston said. "That's what I hoped when I came in here. This organization, this team is about the team collectively and it always has been. That's why they won and how we won."

Kopecky re-established the three-goal lead in the third period with a fluky goal at 7:51. Boston's Chris Kelly was near the boards in the Bruins zone when he tried to fire the puck behind his own net; instead, it went off the skate of defenseman Adam McQuaid and across the front of the net. Kopecky one-timed it from the other side of the net and got the puck past Thomas before the goalie could get in position.

It was Kopecky's second goal in two games after he went 22 games without scoring.

Wolski closed out the scoring at 17:34 on a 2-on-2 rush after a beautiful feed from Fleischmann.

"I don't think they're playing the way they usually play, to be honest," Samuelsson said of the Bruins. "If you ask them, I think they'd say the same thing. But we're not taking anything away from this group. We're playing good and we're playing solid defensively and that's where it starts."
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