After a dropping two consecutive home games, the Boston Bruins began a four-game road trip Saturday with a game against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Florida. The Bruins may struggle at home (9-10-0, 26th in NHL) but have been a totally different team on the road this season and continued to be a better club away from TD Garden by defeating the Panthers 4-0 on the strength of Brad Marchand’s two goals (one shorthanded, one power play) and goaltender Tuukka Rask’s 25 saves.
“We’ve had some tough nights where we’ve worked hard and haven’t got the results so this is one of the few games that we’ve been able to extend the lead and get ourselves a win that we feel much better about.” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after his team’s strong performance.
The win moved Boston (21-17-4) into second place in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins lead third-place Ottawa by two points and trail first-place Montreal by 10 points.
After watching goaltender Tuuka Rask withstand five shots in the first two minutes of the game, Boston began to get untracked. The line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak set the pace offensively with more than a few scoring chances.
“He plays great every night,” Marchand said when asked about Rask’s shutout. “He’s been extremely good this year and he gives us an opportunity to win every game.”
Marchand opened the scoring at the 12:48 mark of the first period with his eleventh goal of the season. He blocked a shot inside his blue line and took the disc the length of the ice then put a forehand/backhand deke on Florida goaltender James Reimer before depositing the puck into the back of the net with a backhand shot. Captain Zdeno Chara also assisted on the lamp lighter.
Boston took that 1-0 lead into the dressing room after 20 minutes and looked to be on their way to a successful evening.
David Backes, who returned to the Bruins lineup after missing three games with a concussion, gave his team a 2-0 lead 4:13 into the period by deflecting a David Krejci shot past Reimer for his 10th goal of the season.
Florida began to show signs of frustration when defenseman Michael Matheson slashed Bruins blue liner Torey Krug at 9:21 of the period. Marchand took advantage of the power play by scoring his twelfth of the year 19 seconds later.
The goal was set up when David Pastrnak moved the puck from the left side of the Panthers’ zone back to Krug, who was at the center-point. Krug sent a slap shot at the net which Reimer stopped but the rebound went directly to Marchand, who was standing to the goaltender’s left, the winger scooped up the puck and put it into the goal as Reimer dove across the crease in an attempt to stop the shot but could not get there in time.
The Panthers put on a big push at the start of the third period but Rask and the Bruins withstood the storm and increased their lead to 4-0 on Riley Nash’s second goal of the season and first in 30 games at 4:59 of the period. With the Bruins applying strong pressure in the Florida zone, Nash had the puck at the right side of the net and attempted to send a pass into the slot but the puck hit a Panther defenseman and ended up in the back of the net.
After the victory, Backes expressed his satisfaction with his team’s effort.
“A 4-0 win, which we haven’t had in a little while, was nice,” said Backes. “We could roll four lines there at the end and hopefully keep a little juice for the back-to-back game that we have tomorrow.”
The Bruins left Florida with the 4th best road record (12-7-4) in the National Hockey League and will take that record to Raleigh, North Carolina for a Sunday afternoon tilt (5:00 pm ET) against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Bruins finished the season series with the Panthers with a 4-0-0 record.
Boston’s penalty killing units stopped all three Florida power plays. The Bruins rank first on the PK with an 87.9% success rate.
Tuukka Rask recorded his 35th career shutout tying him for second-place all time with Frankie Brimsek for most career shutouts by a Bruins goaltender.
With his assist on David Backes goal, David Krejci has 498 career NHL points.
Since the beginning of his NHL career in 2009-10, Brad Marchand leads the NHL with 20 shorthanded goals.
Brad Marchand had gone 38 consecutive games without a multi-point game.
This season, Brad Marchand has 22 points (8 goals, 14 assists) in 23 road games.
Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.