- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- The Bruins have been in a bit of a slump lately, so with the lowly Florida Panthers in town it was a good time for Boston to break out of it.
The execution wasn't perfect, but the end result was as the Bruins finished with a 4-1 victory over the Panthers on Thursday night at TD Garden. The Bruins entered the game 1-3-1 in their previous five games. David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Torey Krug and Reilly Smith scored for Boston, while goaltender Tuukka Rask made 23 saves.
It was a sloppy affair until the Bruins began to play a more physical game in the second period. Boston started to generate scoring chances and finally capitalized when Krejci's one-timer from just inside the left point found its way through traffic and beat Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead at 7:17 of the second.
Marchand gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead when he scored only his second goal of the season at 4:09 of the third period. He did exactly what Bruins coach Claude Julien has been preaching to him, crashing the net and knocking in the loose puck. During his goal celebration, Marchand motioned as if he were throwing the monkey off his back, or taking the knife out of it. Either way, it was his first goal since Oct. 5 at Detroit.
The Bruins added to their lead when Krug beat Clemmensen to the high glove side with a slick snap shot from the high slot at 8:57 of the third. The goal was Krug's sixth of the season, one tally shy of tying Milan Lucic for the team lead.
Jesse Winchester scored the lone goal for Florida at 14:25 of the third period. Smith gave Boston a 4-1 lead when he capitalized on a bad turnover by Florida and beat Clemmensen from the slot at 18:13. It was Smith's second goal of the season.
HEAD SHOT: The Bruins' Chris Kelly was on the receiving end of an elbow to the head by Winchester early in the first period. Winchester left his feet and caught Kelly in the head with the blow. Kelly remained on the ice for a moment and was tended to by team trainer Donnie DelNegro before skating off the ice and going to the locker room. Kelly seemed dazed but quickly returned to action. No penalty was called on Winchester, but the Bruins' Gregory Campbell took care of business when he dropped the gloves with Winchester on the ensuing shift.
"It hurt," Kelly said with a laugh. "I know Jesse Winchester, we played together and he's probably one of the nicest guys in hockey, so I'm sure it wasn't intentional. That being said, it was awesome Soup steps up for me, goes out there and takes care of business."
Kelly admitted he was stunned on the play.
"You're thinking 'Am I all right here? Am I going to be able to get up?' I think you're kind of stunned more than anything right when it happens, but I was fine. The one with [teammate] Carl [Soderberg] hurt a little bit more when we collided [in the third period]. When it rains, it pours, I guess."
A CUT ABOVE: With just under five minutes to play in the second period, the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron was battling along the boards in the defensive zone when the puck bounced up and caught him in the face. He quickly grabbed his face but remained on the ice for a moment before skating to the bench, dropping his stick on the ice and walking down the tunnel to the locker room for medical attention. He returned for the third period.
"I was trying to have a good stick on the guy, he tried to shoot it and it deflected off my stick and I got it right in the eye," explained Bergeron. "At first, my eye was a little blurry but it got back, so it's good."
DROP 'EM: With the Bruins holding a 1-0 lead in the second period, Boston's Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves with the Panthers' Krys Barch at 13:49. It's the seventh time the two have fought in their NHL careers. The Bruins are 50-21-10 when Thornton is assessed a fighting major during his career in Boston.
SALUTED: During a TV timeout midway through the third period, the Bruins recognized former goalie and current Panthers netminder Tim Thomas with a video-board salute. Thomas, who remains sidelined with a groin injury, was sitting on press level at the Garden when the camera showed him on the board. The 17,565 in attendance gave him a standing ovation and he returned the favor.
"It was nice for the fans to give him that reception," Kelly said. "I clapped, too. I like Timmy."
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara concurred.
"Fans really appreciate what Timmy did, especially that year we won," Chara said. "Everyone knows he was the difference-maker, so it was nice for him to be recognized by the fans."
UP NEXT: The Bruins will host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday before finishing up this current five-game homestand against the Columbus Blue Jackets next Thursday at TD Garden.