Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas knelt down on opposite sides of the center
line at TD Garden, stretching out the hamstrings and chewing the fat.
And why not? After all, Rask was Thomas' protege as a rookie, and the two formed a bond that has withstood the ugliness of Thomas' departure from Beantown last season, leaving the crease all to the big Finn - but now the former Bruins netminder is a member of the Florida Panthers - Tuesday night's foe - and the pleasantries ended at the drop of the puck.
|Smith and Soderberg celebrate their connection on Boston's fourth goal|
The last time the Panthers visited TD Garden in early November, Thomas was relegated to the safety of the visitors' luxury suite, the worst he had to face was the plaudits of the Garden crowd when the Bruins' management honored him with a short video tribute...
...but this time, there were no video tributes, just pucks-a-plenty, fired in rapid succession - Milan Lucic finding twine twice, Zdeno Chara, Reilly Smith, Shawn Thornton and David Krejci once a piece as the Bruins showed no mercy to their old friend in a thorough 6-2 punking of the Panthers on Tuesday night.
And it didn't take long for Lucic to start the rout, nor for the Panthers to realize that it just wasn't going to be their night.
In transition with just over seven minutes gone in the match, the Bruins had numbers on a rush off a big rebound, but David Krejci misplayed a tumbling puck on the dashers above the right circle, somehow regained control and managed to backhand the puck through a double team to Jarome Iginla who took a shot from the high slot...
...Lucic gathering in the puck on the short rebound and snapping it past Thomas for his 14th on the season - and the Bruins' third game in a row scoring six goals was well under way.
Zdeno Chara made it 2-0 with one of his effortless looking 100 mile-per-hour one timers that caught Thomas square in the chest, the puck bounding into the air, it's forward momentum carrying it over Thomas' head, hitting the ice in the crease and tumbling across the red line...
...the goal originally being credited to Milan Lucic, who was battling with Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov - the thought being that the puck had made contact with Lucic in the scrum - but replays showed that it hadn't, and Chara had his 100th NHL goal one night after reaching the 500th NHL point plateau.
Lucic did score his second of the night less than two minutes into the second period when he dug out the puck from underneath Thomas after he had stoned a Matt Bartkowski drive from the blue line.
Smith scored from the low post to put the game completely out of reach with five minutes remaining in the middle frame, potting a slick feed from Carl Soderberg across the low slot. The big Swede is really starting to find his game, and when Loui Eriksson found him down low, he drew the defense toward him, leaving Smith wide open on the left post.
The Panthers got one back with just seconds remaining in the period, then came out on fire to start the third and Kulikov got the Panthers within two with less that five minutes gone in the frame on a wicked wrister on the power play from the high point...
...but Thornton pulled a rabbit of of his hat, weaving through the neutral zone with the puck down low on the bin-side dashers, split two defenders and dished a backhander past Thomas just four minutes later to cool the Panthers' heels and ice the match.
Krejci ripped his 11th of the year past Thomas from the high slot with a couple of minutes remaining, but by that time the former Bruin had seen enough - and may have earned himself a suspension, the frustration from the six goals allowed playing a part in chopping down on Carl Soderberg's neck with his stick, a two minute high sticking penalty perhaps the least of his worries.
Regardless, the Bruins are done with the Panthers until the teams meet in March and turn their focus on the hated Montreal Canadiens, who invade the Garden on Thursday night.