Second line in top form:
The Bruins' second forward pairing of Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand set the tone, and set it early. Less than 15 seconds into their first penalty kill, Marchand lit the lamp six minutes into the contest for the opening score, taking a Bergeron dump-in and wrapping around the net, beating Jose Theodore short-side for the short-handed tally.
Later in the period, with even strength, Marchand swooped in front of Jose Theodore and made a terrific screen; Theodore appeared to have trouble locating the shot as Dennis Seidenberg ripped a laser from the left point that beat him over his shoulder.
Marchand ended up with his first career hat trick, with 3-2-5 totals, giving him 10 points in his past five games. Not a bad way to end a week that started with the popular, pugilistic winger scoring the game-winner against Montreal on Monday.
Bergeron finished the night with 1-2-3 totals, giving him nine points on this six-game win streak.
Crowding the net: The Bruins carved up the Panthers' defensive pairings for a number of net-front opportunities, contributing in large part to the lopsided victory. It started with Marchand's wrap-around in the first, but Milan Lucic sent this game to the tipping point at 13:40 of the first period, parking at the weak post as Bergeron ripped one from the high slot, and slipping the rebound behind Theodore's right pad.
It was plays like that throughout the night that made this an easy victory.
Theodore exits quickly:
It feels like eons ago that Theodore was winning the Hart Trophy and giving the Bruins all sorts of fits in net donning the bleu, blanc and rouge. In 31 games against the B's headed into Friday, he was 15-12-3 lifetime.
But while he made a few nice saves early -- including a nice stuff of Lucic with his pads, after laying out on the rush -- his defensemen didn't give him much to work with. He lasted one period before retiring in favor of former Boston College star Scott Clemmensen, having given up four goals on 14 shots against.
Clemmensen, meanwhile, didn't fare much better. He also surrendered four goals, on 21 shots against.
Hamill earning his keep: With Rich Peverley out Friday, Providence call-up Zach Hamill played in his fifth straight game for Boston. He saw time on the third line with Benoit Pouliot and Chris Kelly, where Peverley normally plays, and also saw time on the second power-play and penalty-kill units. He also did a nice job in the second period to draw a cross-checking penalty behind the net from Dmitry Kulikov. Hamill took one shot in 13:23 of ice time.
The organization has been waiting for Hamill, the Bruins' first-round pick (No. 8 overall) back in 2007, to start showing some strides. On this run, he's begun to make good on that early promise, and is making a case to stay with the big club.
Easy night for Tuukka:
Tuukka Rask got the start in net, and picked up his ninth career shutout, and second of the 2011-12 season. He stopped all 30 shots he saw in net, to improve his record to 7-4-1 on the year.
The Bruins now have four days off, before Wednesday's game at the Phoenix Coyotes. They will next practice on Tuesday, at Jobing.com Arena.
Momentum at the break:
The Bruins head into the Christmas break winners of six straight, nine of their past 10, and are back into sole possession of first place with 47 points (the Philadelphia Flyers sit at 46 after losing to the New York Rangers on Friday).