Five from afar: Bruins 3, Panthers 2

December, 27, 2010
12/27/10
11:10
PM ET

The Bruins never led but came away with two points in their first shootout win of the season, beating the Florida Panthers 3-2. Blake Wheeler scored the only goal of the shootout and Tim Thomas made 32 saves in another amazing performance. David Krejci helped the comeback effort with a pair of tying goals as the Bruins started their five-game road trip with a win.

The Bruins, who are tied with Montreal in points but have two games in hand, are now in first place in Northeast Division and third in Eastern Conference. They will carry a two-game winning streak into Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.

Here are five observations from afar:

Never out of it with Thomas. The Panthers jumped to two one-goal leads and had plenty of chances to take control of the game. But once again, Tim Thomas kept his team in the game.

Thomas was huge in the first 10 minutes of the third period, allowing the Bruins to hang around and finally tie it on Krejci’s second goal 10:35 into the period. Thomas also came up big in the second, stopping breakaways and odd-man rushes that could have easily swung things Florida's way.

His best save though had to be on former teammate Dennis Wideman with 2:05 left in regulation. Thomas made a sprawling cross-crease save to stop Wideman, who seemingly had an open net. Thomas then stopped all three shootout attempts, basically stealing another two points for the Bruins. It’s hard to imagine where this team would be without him.

Reunited, and it feels so good. Two seasons ago, the Bruins' best line arguably was the Blake Wheeler-David Krejci-Michael Ryder trio. That grouping seems to have found that chemistry again since being reunited in the third period of a 3-0 loss to the Ducks on Dec. 20. After an injury-riddled campaign for Krejci and off seasons by Wheeler and Ryder, this line is starting to click again and create scoring chances.

On Monday night, they converted two of those chances into goals by Krejci. Both goals erased Panther leads, with Ryder getting the helper on the first and both Ryder and Wheeler getting assists on the second. Ryder and Wheeler are creating chances off the forecheck, and Krejci has his finishing touch going again. This can only mean good things for the Bruins.

Bruins get first shootout win of the season. After losing their first three shootouts, the Bruins finally came away with two points from the extra, extra session. Wheeler got the goal on the team’s second attempt. Tyler Seguin was unable to score on the Bruins' first try. Meanwhile, Thomas stopped Mike Santorelli, Stephen Weiss and Evgeni Dadonov.

It was surprising that coach Claude Julien didn’t go with Krejci, who already had scored twice and is one of Julien's usual picks. But Wheeler proved to be the right call.

Bruins fail to carry momentum and have good start. The Bruins got the gut-check, energy and team-bonding experience they so desperately needed last Thursday in their 4-1 win over Atlanta. The question heading into Monday night’s game was whether they could carry over that momentum? While the Bruins weren’t exactly flat in the opening period, they looked nothing like the fired-up team from Thursday.

The lack of energy carried into the starting minutes of the second period as they went down 1-0 1:02 in. The Bruins tied it, but then sat back again and found themselves trailing 2-1 heading into the final period. They need to be more consistent in setting the tone.

Minutes, situations catching up to Kampfer. Overall, Bruins rookie defenseman Steven Kampfer deserves credit for being able to step in and play pretty well in Mark Stuart’s absence. However, the coaching staff may want to stop putting him in situations few rookies can handle. While their options for puck-moving defensemen and power play quarterbacks are limited, the Bruins seem to have too much faith in Kampfer being the guy to fill those roles as the pressure is starting to break the young rear guard.

On David Booth’s goal 1:02 into the second period, Kampfer coughed up the puck on an outlet pass, Michael Frolik deflected it and Booth rifled it home. It may be time to trim Kampfer’s minutes a bit before his confidence dwindles. It should be noted that Kampfer recovered from that gaffe and finished the game even in 17:58 of ice time.

James Murphy

Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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