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Bruins continue torrid road trip with rout of Panthers

The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Already off to their best start in decades, the Boston Bruins maintained the pace in a 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers Sunday afternoon in front of 18,108 at the BB&T Center.

With just one matchup remaining on their season-long five-game roadtrip, the Bruins (11-2-2) improved to 7-1-1 away from TD Garden. They came into Sunday's game with the organization's best road start since 2010 and best overall start since 1976.

One of the main reasons for the early success lies in the team's penalty kill. Boston has kept opponents off the scoreboard in 21 straight power plays over the past seven-plus games, including a key four-minute sequence at the end of the second and start of the third. The Bruins lead the league with a 94.8 percent proficiency.

"That's something that we're trying to thrive on all year and we're doing that night in and night out so far," left winger Daniel Paille said. "One thing we want to do is not take it for granted. We're being patient and positioned well. The rest of the year should be all right if we play like that."

The Bruins took a 1-0 lead on left winger Milan Lucic's snap shot that beat goaltender Jacob Markstrom's stick side 7:57 into the first period. Center David Krejci set up Lucic's fourth goal of the season by winning the face-off in the Florida zone.

Nifty stick work from defenseman Zdeno Chara, who handled a pass from left winger Brad Marchand in front of the blue line, gave Boston a 2-0 advantage with 6:08 left in the period. Chara spun around a defenseman and faked another Panthers player before backhanding the puck top shelf for his third goal of the year. Center Tyler Seguin also recorded an assist on the play.

"It just happened, basically," Chara said. "You can't plan that kind of goal or moments. My game is simple, and that's not my priority. I was glad we got the lead with that goal."

Florida (5-9-4) trimmed the deficit to 2-1 less than two minutes later on right winger Tomas Kopecky's fifth goal of the season. Left winger Tomas Fleischmann passed to center Drew Shore, whose shot rebounded back to him. Kopecky then gathered Shore's feed that sat between defenseman Andrew Ference's legs and found an opening on the left side of the net.

Earlier in the period, the same line couldn't capitalize on a scoring opportunity. Center Jonathan Huberdeau passed to Kopecky, who took a shot that lingered near the back post and didn't cross the goal line. Shore was unable to put it in.

"I think we had a really good opportunity to win this game and I really believed in our team, but they got up 2-0 in the first and worked from there," said Markstrom, who earned his second consecutive start and made 28 saves. "We could have had a couple more goals, but it's a tough break right now."

Center Chris Kelly's goal with eight seconds to go in a power play came 2:30 into the second period and handed the Bruins a 3-1 lead.

Paille skated down the middle of the Panthers zone -- catching them on a line change -- and took a slap shot that Florida's Peter Mueller slightly deflected from behind. The loose puck bounced directly to Kelly for his first goal of the season. Left winger Chris Bourque tallied an assist.

"It was a long time coming and hopefully it's a sign of things to come," Kelly said. "Obviously you want to score. I try to work on other things, and when you're not scoring you have to bring other things to the table."

Boston capped the scoring with 1:37 remaining in regulation on Paille's shorthanded open-netter for his third goal of the year, assisted by defenseman Adam McQuaid.

In the midst of a five-game home losing streak -- the first since Feb. 16- March 6, 2011 -- Florida is 0 for 17 on the power play during that span.

For the 10th time this season, Boston held an opponent to two goals or fewer, improving to 10-0-0 in those games. Goaltender Tuukka Rask, who has a 5-1-0 record against the Panthers, finished with 34 saves.

"This will turn around somewhere along the line," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said.

"There's a clear understanding of how we have to play. We've done a lot of talking and now it's time for more direct action."

NOTES: Scott Clemmensen was a healthy scratch for the Panthers, who are currently keeping three goaltenders on the roster. Right winger Alex Kovalev was also a scratch on his 40th birthday. ... Fleischmann is one goal shy of 100 for his NHL career, but has not found the back of the net since last Tuesday against his former team, the Washington Capitals. ... Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said Filip Kuba has an upper body injury. Defenseman Colby Robak was recalled from AHL San Antonio. ... Up next, the Bruins remain on their longest road trip of the season, closing the fifth and final game on Tuesday with a visit to New York to face the Islanders. ... The Panthers continue their three-game homestand, hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.
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