BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins did what they were supposed to do against the NHL's worst team Thursday night. Win.
But it wasn't easy.
Or very pretty.
The Bruins got first-period goals from Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron but then stumbled to a 4-1 win over the injury-ravaged Florida Panthers that was closer than the final score indicated.
Shawn Matthias' short-handed goal, his eighth goal of the season, cut the Florida deficit in half in the second period, but unlike they had done in losing two of their last four, the Bruins didn't completely blow their lead and improved to 18-4-3 with their second win of the year over the Panthers (7-15-6).
Shawn Thornton and Bergeron closed out the scoring.
Tuukka Rask made 29 saves to move his record to 14-2-3. He is 6-1 lifetime against the Panthers, entering with an 0.98 goals-against average against Florida.
Boston, which avoided its first two-game regulation-time losing streak of the season, is 9-2-1 at home, 7-0-1 against the Southeast Division. Florida slipped to 3-8-1 on the road and fell to 1-7-2 against the Northeast Division.
The Panthers entered the third period a goal down but have won only once (1-13-2) this season when trailing after two. That became a sure thing when Thornton scored with 7:17 left.
The Bruins are 17-0 when holding the opposition to two goals or less. They killed both Florida power plays, running their current kill streak to 22 in a row.
Bruins coach Claude Julien has been calling for more production from his so-called top line and he got some quickly in this game.
David Krejci shot the puck wide. It hit the end boards and came out the other side. Chara retrieved at the top of the faceoff circle and sent a slap shot by Scott Clemmensen at 3:55 -- after the Panthers had come out strong and taken the first five shots of the game.
Soon after, Nathan Horton, who had the second assist on the Chara goal, hit the post on his own rebound and Krejci was robbed by Clemmensen later in the period.
All five Bruins on the ice touched the puck on the second goal, at 14:56, Bergeron easily tapping home a pass from Brad Marchand. Tyler Seguin, who gave the puck to Marchand, made a nifty move to get free soon after and was stopped by Clemmensen.
The Panthers got on the board while getting away with a penalty. Down a man, Boston's Dougie Hamilton and Matthias chased down an errant Milan Lucic pass; Matthias dived, tripped Hamilton, got the puck and scored the first short-handed goal of the season against the Bruins.
NOTES: On top of all the injuries they've already had, the Panthers announced Thursday that right winger Kris Versteeg will have knee surgery and miss the rest of the season. ... Defenseman Adam McQuaid missed the game for Boston with an undisclosed injury (he was hit on the right arm by a shot in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night). "Just a minor injury," said Julien, who added that he expected McQuaid back for Saturday's home game against Washington. With McQuaid out, Aaron Johnson dressed for his fifth game of the season. ... The Bruins signed winger Anthony Camara, a third-round pick in the 2011 draft, to an entry-level contract. He had 36 goals and a team-high 80 penalty minutes for Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League this season. ... The Panthers began a stretch of six of the next seven games on the road. They host the Islanders Saturday and then hit the road for five straight. ... The Panthers came in as one of two visiting teams (along with Minnesota) with an all-time winning record in Boston, coming in 14-15-4-3. ... Just as Celtics counterpart Doc Rivers had done the previous day, Julien reacted to Wes Welker leaving the Patriots for Denver, saying, "Better left with no comments because, honestly, you lose a good player, but we don't know what's going on behind closed doors with the organization. They must have had a reason to do it. I'm certainly not going to criticize the organization, but I liked him as a player." ... With the trade deadline coming April 4, the upper level was loaded with scouts.