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    All-Centennial Team

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    Stanley Cup Champs

    Krejci hat trick tames Panthers; Bruins close in on top seed

    Last time we saw Tim Thomas at TD Garden he was trying to decapitate Boston Bruins' winger Carl Soderberg as punishment for daring to trespass into his crease - never mind that Thomas had already surrendered six goals, and was just pissed off that Soderberg made an aggressive move into the low slot.

    “Nobody was really running into me, until the end there,” Thomas remarked after the game “Soderberg, the play before that, he did a pretty hard jab and then all a sudden the pucks up in the air, you’re catching it and his stick is in my throat - with less than a minute left in the game and they’re up by four goals, 6-2, I took exception to that."
    Bruins celebrate David Krejci's second goal on his way to a hat trick

    To which Soderberg replied, “We can’t stop play because there is 30 seconds left, we have to try to score the whole game.”

    That's Boston Bruins' hockey - don't like it?  Then stop them, just don't do it by bashing one of their players over the head with your stick.

    But in this game there would be no wood chopping, the extent of the hostilities a half-hearted bout between Panthers' frequent fighter Krys Barch and the Bruins' Milan Lucic - getting it out of the way early in the opening period so that the true beating could commence...

    ...the Bruins combining their trademark physicality with some of their fanciest stick work of the season, behind David Krejci's third career hat trick Boston dominated the overmatched Panthers at TD Garden much more thoroughly than the 4-1 final score would have you believe.

    Krejci scored unassisted on a fantastic piece of thievery to give the Bruins the early lead, followed up by Jarome Iginla and some of that aforementioned fancy stickwork to give Boston all the offense they would need, as backup netminder Chad Johnson was a brick wall between the pipes, stopping 23 of the 24 shots he faced.

    Thomas?  Well, his defense did him no favors and he stopped the ones he could get a body part on, but in the end Krejci and the Bruins' relentless attack was just too much.

    Krejci potted his first goal as a righteous reward for picking Florida defenseman Tom Gilbert's pocket below the net and to Thomas' blocker side - floating backwards away from the crease and waiting patiently for a hole to develop, then getting Thomas on his belly with a shoulder feign before elevating the puck over his glove for a 1-0 Bruins' lead.

    Just over three minutes later, Iginla hit Jordan Caron - skating in place of absent winger Loui Eriksson - with a beautiful stretch pass right to left across the neutral zone, Caron sending a wrister on net from the left point that bounded off of Thomas' pad and directly into a streaking Iginla's wheelhouse.

    Thomas, who stoned 36 of 39 Bruins shots, never had a chance at stopping the rebound shot from the dot in the right circle, and Boston took a 2-0 lead into the room at the first intermission.

    The second period was lost in a fog, neither team showing the intensity they displayed in the opening frame until Barch took his second fighting major of the night midway through the period when he dropped gloves with Bruins' tough guy Shawn Thornton - but that turned into a choppy waltz with both dancers landing some love taps before repairing to the sin bin, leaving the ice with big smiles and warm hearts.

    Barch's well-intentioned bout with Thornton, clearly meant to try and fire up the Panthers, seemed to have the opposite effect as it was the Bruins that put it in another gear , Krejci finding twine after gathering in a rebound and snapping in a pinball shot that deflected off the stick-side post, hitting the center post and bouncing back onto the playing surface - Lucic snapping it back in just to make sure.

    The Panthers scored a late goal, but it was too little and far too late - a Krejci empty netter from the center line with just seconds remaining providing the final score and triggering the customary plethora of hats flying onto the ice from the jubilant fans.

    With their second consecutive win, the Bruins pull to within one point of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the best record in the Eastern Conference - pending the result of their match with the Nashville Predators -  while the Panthers slide further down the stack and directly into the path of a surging Buffalo Sabres team as they try to avoid the worst record in the conference.