SUNRISE, Fla. — For the Bruins, their two-game Florida swing couldn’t help but feel like a vacation. They had a day off in 80-degree South Florida on Friday. After practicing at the BB&T Center on Saturday, they had dinner at owner Jeremy Jacobs’s nearby home.
“It’s nice to have different scenery and warm weather,” said Zdeno Chara. “Have fun and relax a little bit.”
On Sunday, the Bruins submitted enough hard-hat grinding to term it a working vacation. The team scored a 4-1 win over the Panthers to complete a sweep of the Florida clubs. On Thursday, the Bruins beat the Lightning, 4-2.
“It’s nice to get that,” coach Claude Julien said of the sweep. “I know we’ve had our fair share of tough times here in Florida. We were unable to sweep here on a lot of occasions. To come in here, both those teams play really hard.
“As you saw, they had their chances. Their goaltender made some big saves at the right times. We were fortunate enough to score on our occasions. The other night in the Tampa game, same thing. It was certainly a lot closer than the score indicated. Tough two games for us. But nice to come out on the winning side.”
The Panthers had their best chances in the first period. They had some in-tight sniffs on Tuukka Rask (34 saves, including 10 in the first). But the Panthers couldn’t put any more points on the board aside from a close-range Tomas Kopecky goal.
At the other end, the Bruins beat rookie Jacob Markstrom twice in the first, including the game-winner.
Their textbook play took place after an offensive-zone draw. David Krejci beat Marcel Goc. Krejci pulled the puck back to Milan Lucic. Before Markstrom could set himself, Lucic snapped the puck past the goalie at 7:57 for the game’s opening goal.
The second goal was anything but textbook.
Chara is best known for his defensive-zone domination. In his words, he plays a simple game. Prevent scoring chances from taking place. Rub out any forwards who dare dip their toes into the danger zones. Log heavy minutes against the league’s best attackers.
In the first, Chara proved he can dangle, too.
“Pretty sick,” Rask said of the captain’s move.
Brad Marchand triggered the play. Marchand sprinted down the left wing with the puck, stopped short, turned, and waited for support.
Chara followed up, making himself available inside the blue line.
Once he took Marchand’s pass, Chara pulled off a spin-o-rama to twirl around Jonathan Huberdeau. When the behemoth’s spin finally ended, Chara was at the right circle. Markstrom was positioned correctly. But Chara pulled the puck to his backhand and snapped a riser over Markstrom’s glove at 13:52 of the first for a 2-0 lead.
“Was that Brian Campbell out there? That’s normally his move,” Chris Kelly said, referring to the smooth-moving Florida defenseman, when describing the spin-o-rama. “Nice backhander. It’s nice to see a big man like that move gracefully on the ice.”
In the second, Kelly gave his team a much-needed cushion. The Bruins had gone on the power play after Campbell was called for hooking at 0:39. But the Bruins couldn’t generate anything on the power play. They struggled with their breakouts.
They didn’t get set up in the offensive zone. Neither of the primary units landed a puck on Markstrom.
But at the end of the power play, the Bruins busted through. Julien sent out Kelly and Daniel Paille to set up for five-on-five play. Chris Bourque blew over the offensive blue line with speed and laid a pass to Paille. The left wing saw Kelly going to the net. Paille didn’t get everything behind his shot. But the puck landed on Kelly’s blade. The center had an easy tuck-in at 2:30 of the second, giving the Bruins a 3-1 lead.
“Every once in a while, you need those guys to help your power play out,” Julien said. “His comment was, ‘That was easy.’ ”
Scoring goals, however, has been anything but simple for Kelly. The center had gone the first 14 games without a goal.
If the Bruins can get scoring from Kelly and Rich Peverley (two goals this season), it will give them better balance.
“He’s one of those guys that puts a lot of pressure on himself,” Julien said of Kelly. “To be able to get that monkey off the back is always a good thing. Although he hadn’t scored yet, I thought his game was really coming along. A lot of things, he’d be doing well. He’s part of the penalty kill, but also his skating and timing are coming along. You’re starting to see him turn the corner in regards to his play.”
On Monday morning, the Bruins are scheduled to leave Florida behind. They will travel to Long Island in preparation for Tuesday’s finale to their three-game road trip. They’ll be departing Florida with points as well as tans.