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Bruins and Lightning tied at 2-2 after one period

02.22.09 at 5:55 pm ET
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TAMPA, Fl. — Andrew Ference banged in his first power play score of the season — and his first goal of any kind this season – as the newest left-handed shot to try out for that all-important fifth spot along the right side boards on Boston’s top power play. The Ference goal came off a great cross-ice pass from Marc Savard at the left point as he waited for the puck on the sideboards and lifted a shot past Tampa goaltender Karri Ramo.

The Ference tied things up at 2-2 after one full period of play, and finished an eventful first 20 minutes of play that featured a boatload of Grade A chances and a pair of fights: Shawn Thornton and David Koci in the undercard and Mark Stuart and Gary Roberts in a pretty good bout toward the end of the first.

The two fights marked Boston’s first dropping of the gloves in their last nine games.

Kessel ends drought, Lightning take 2-1 lead

02.22.09 at 5:19 pm ET
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TAMPA, Fl. — Phil Kessel finally broke open a 14-game goal-scoring drought — the third longest of his short career — with a signature lightning-quick wrist shot from the right faceoff circle in the opening minutes of Sunday afternoon’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The score came off a Marc Savard pass that was deflected off Tampa defenseman Steve Eminger’s skate and bounced right to Kessel’s waiting stick.

The Lightning followed with a pair of goals in the span of two minutes by Jeff Halpern and Adam Hall, the second of which was on a wraparound bid when B’s goalie Manny Fernandez couldn’t close off the right post quickly enough with his body and pad.

The Lightning lead 2-1 over the B’s with 13:07 to go in the first period at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Bruins didn’t get dirty enough in loss to Panthers

02.21.09 at 10:54 pm ET
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SUNRISE, Fl. — Bruins bench boss Claude Julien has apparently seen enough after Saturday night‘s half-hearted 2-0 loss to the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center.

Julien has watched his team alternate between encouraging (third period against the Carolina Hurricanes) and overmatched (third period against the San Jose Sharks) over the last two weeks, and was fuming after watching his team shy away from the front of the net while still rifling 41 shots at Panthers netminder Tomas Vokoun.

Vokoun was solid between the pipes, no doubt, and came up large a pair of times: with an extended leg pad stop in the second period on a Milan Lucic tip of a pass from the sideboards by Blake Wheeler, and later on a Patrice Bergeron wraparound attempt midway through the third period.

But the B’s didn’t bring their hard hats to the frozen sheet amid the sun and adjacent palm trees, and couldn’t create a much traffic or flying bodies in front of the net while Vokoun was shutting the B’s down. There were several desperate attempts to crash the net for rebounds or tipped pucks, but there wasn’t nearly enough willingness to get to where the action was in the dirty areas.

The B’s players might want to get ready for some Herb Brooks-style practices in the near-future as Julien was clearly teed off after the 60 minutes of futile hockey had ended.

“I think we had a lot of energy tonight. That wasn’t the issue,” Claude Julien said. “It was more of concentration and a lack of willingness to go to the dirty areas. We can have 41 shots on net. But if everything is from outside and the goaltender can see everything, I don’t think you’re going to score too many goals that way.”

“There are times throughout the year when guys need to be reminded that they need to get to the dirty areas of the ice to make things happen. Maybe some of our guys need a reminder,” added Julien. “Maybe things have been too easy for them lately, and they have to go back to getting their noses dirty.”

Bergeron led the team with eight shots on goal and the energized Wheeler was just behind the centerman with seven shots on net, but many of the Bruins felt that the Panthers, obviously hungry to climb up the charts for playoff pole position in the Eastern Conference, were able to turn the tables on them last night. D-men like Nick Boynton, Keith Ballard and Jay Bouwmeester were able to clear the B’s forwards away from the front of the net, and keep much of Boston’s offensive attempts to the outside.

Then when an opportune moment to strike popped up, the Panthers pounced as they did in the third period on their shorthanded strike. Bouwmeester was able to flip a puck past a turned-around P.J. Axelsson and Zdeno Chara, and found Radek Dvorak flying in from the right side of the ice. Dvorak roofed a backhanded bid and beat Thomas to finally break the scoreless spell in the third period.

The formula was pretty damned for ther Big Cats from Florida: the Panthers simply played solid ‘D’ and then waited for the perfect moment to counter-strike, and Vokoun was able to rise to the occasion when the Bruins attempted to answer.

“A lot of shots doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of scoring chances,” said B’s defenseman Dennis Wideman, who was sporting a gash on his nose from a first period high stick following the game. “We had a lot of shots, but we didn’t generate a lot of good scoring chances. There have been plenty of times during the year when we’ve been outshot by others team, but had the clear advantage in the game.

“That’s kind of what tonight felt like,” added Wideman.

Adding to Boston’s recent spate of issues was the continued downward trend by the power play, which this time dropped an 0-for-6 into a hockey game when they badly needed a PP strike.

One thing worse than the power play, you ask?

That would be have to be the game presentation at the BankAtlantic Center that includes the Panthers Dance Team shaking their booty in between periods like the cheerleaders/strippers from “The Replacements”. Somebody needs to send a memo out to Panthers ownership that this ain’t the NBA. Then the JAM’N 94.5 soundtrack boomed throughout the entire hockey game. Hockey feels forced enough in Florida locales, but the between period dance routines makes you feel like you’re a mighty long way from the good ole Original Six.

Bad atmosphere, lukewarm effort and a terrible result against a potential playoff opponent in southern Florida on Saturday night.

Injury Ward:  Wideman was hit in the face with a high stick but returned to the game just minutes later. Andrew Ference was similarly hit in the face with another errant high stick from the Panthers, but remained in the game without missing a shift.

Player of the Game: Got to be a combination of Dvorak (two goals) and Vokoun (second shutout in his last three games and an NHL-best .940 save percentage over the last month), who both teamed up to bury the Bruins. The Panthers aren’t the most talented team in the league, but Vokoun and their solid defense corps could be a pain to deal with in the playoffs. Andrew Ference earns some Bruins points for two things: A) blocking a game-high 8 shots including a two potentially painful body blows in the final seconds while guarding the net against a pair of empty net bids. Ference made two “saves” without the aid of important things like goalie pads and a mask; and B) sticking around to answer questions about Boston’s less than lustrous effort following the loss to the Panthers.

Goat Horns: The whole team. It’s not often that an entire squad will be fitted for some Pan pipes and supplied with a little bit of wine, but everyone seemed to own up to the lackluster performance after the game was finished. Not enough willing bodies in front of the net. Not enough grit to crash the pipes and force back rebounds. Not enough willingness to make a statement after a few days of fun and sun in Florida. The good news? The B’s have a quick turnaround with a 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon tilt against the downwardly mobile Tampa Bay Lightning.

Turning Point:  The Bruins were already trailing 1-0, but were putting heavy pressure on Vokoun and the Florida defense when Bergeron appeared to have an open net for the wraparound goal. Instead the Florida netminder quickly recovered with his back on the ice and somehow blocked the puck with his right pad, and then closed his legs. The puck shot right back out of the net, and the Panthers stormed down the ice on a 2-on-1 and Dvorak banged home a nifty behind the net pass from Gregory Cambpell. The Panthers were up 2-0 in the third period and the game was O-V-A-H.

Dvorak makes it a 2-0 lead for Panthers

02.21.09 at 9:11 pm ET
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SUNRISE, Fl. — A huge turn of events in the third as a big Vokoun save on Patrice Bergeron’s wraparound kick starts a Panthers rush up the ice, and ends up Radek Dvorak’s second goal of the game off a nice pass from the corner by Greg Campbell.

The save on Bergeron was reviewed for several minutes after the goal, but it was clear that Vokoun caught the puck between his pads and kicked it back out of the net before it crossed the goal line. Vokoun is putting on the best performance by an opposing goalie against the Bruins that these eyes have seen this season.

Panthers lead 2-0 over the B’s with 10:49 to go in the third.

Panthers take lead on short-handed score by Dvorak

02.21.09 at 9:01 pm ET
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The B’ opened up the third period on a power play and seemed to be ready to take control of the game, but a shorthanded strike by Radek Dvorak, who is having a heck of a game for the Panthers, took a long pass from Jay Bouwmeester on the PK and managed to slip past a turned-around P.J. Axelsson and Zdeno Chara.

Once beyond the two points, Dvorak roofed a backhanded bid past Thomas, and the Panthers now lead the B’s by a 1-0 score with 14:57 left to go in the third and final period.

Both goalies up to the task in scoreless match

02.21.09 at 8:17 pm ET
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SUNRISE, Fl. — Florida Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun leads the NHL with a .946 save percentage over the last 30 days, and he’s been showing tonight why exactly he’s been such a hot goalie as of late. He made a couple of solid standout saves in the first period, but he had an absolute stunner midway through the second when he slammed the door on a Blake Wheeler/Milan Lucic rush up the ice.

Wheeler was carrying the puck and flipped toward the net with a fire-breathing Looch storming toward the cage.  Lucic put a good tip on the puck, but Vokoun stretched out the pads and made the nice leg save. He was able to subsequently smother the puck despite both Lucic and Florida defenseman Karlis Skrastins bearing down on him.

B’s goalie Tim Thomas has been equally good on the other end, alternately turning away Radek Dvorak in the first period and kicking away a Nick Tarnasky redirect in the second period.

The B’s and Panthers are still scoreless at the end of two periods, and Vokoun has looked immense in making 26 saves through two periods.

Read More: Blake Wheeler, Boston Bruins, Milan Lucic, Tim Thomas

Horton hears a post during scoreless first

02.21.09 at 7:41 pm ET
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Close call for the Panthers toward the end of the first as Florida forward Nathan Horton wheeled right in from the left faceoff circle and rang the outside of the left post, but ultimately couldn’t finish things off for the Panthers.

The Bruins have had some decent offensive chances, but Chuck Kobasew couldn’t finish off a pair of chances in close, and Tomas Vokoun stuck by the post and made a sound stop when snake-bitten Phil Kessel tried to sneak a puck by him.

Two power plays in the first period for the Black and Gold and no sign of Phil Kessel on either unit.

The B’s and Panthers are locked in a scoreless tie at the BankAtlantic Center after one full period of play.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Chuck Kobasew, Florida Panthers, Phil Kessel
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