SUNRISE, Fla. – The Boston Bruins made the most of their special teams play.
Zdeno Chara and Milan Lucic scored first-period goals, and the Bruins beat the Florida Panthers 4-1 on Sunday.
Chris Kelly had a power-play goal in the second, and Daniel Paille added an empty-net goal. Tuukka Rask stopped 34 shots for the Bruins (11-2-2), who won their third straight game and are off to their best start since the 1976-77 season.
The Bruins have killed 21 straight penalties, including a four-minute power play at the end of the second period and beginning of the third.
“We had four straight minutes to kill, and our guys seem to have a lot of confidence and determination now,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “They like the way things are going right now with the penalty kill, and it’s been one our strengths. We came up big. Had they scored at the beginning of the third it could have been a different game.”
Tomas Kopecky had Florida’s lone goal, and Jacob Markstrom made 28 saves in his second consecutive start for the Panthers, who have lost seven of eight games and five in a row at home.
The Bruins took a 1-0 lead on Lucic’s goal at 7:57 of the first. David Krejci won the faceoff and pushed the puck out to Lucic at the top of the left circle for a slap shot that beat Markstrom on the stick side.
Boston went ahead 2-0 when Chara scored a nifty goal at 13:51. The 6-foot-9 Chara grabbed a loose puck above the circles, spun, and then stickhandled in close before backhanding a shot high into the net.
“You can’t really plan that kind of a goal, those kinds of moves,” Chara said. “My game is simple. That’s not my priority. But I’m glad and happy we got a lead with that goal.”
The Panthers closed to 2-1 on Kopecky’s goal. After battling for the puck in front of the Bruins net, Kopecky was pushed a shot past Rask at 15:38 of the first.
Kelly’s power-play goal at 2:30 of the second stretched the Bruins’ lead to 3-1. A loose puck drifted toward the net after a fanned shot by Paille went between the skates of a defenceman and landed on Kelly’s stick. He poked it in for his first of the season.
“It was a long time coming, and hopefully it’s a sign of good things to come,” Kelly said. “It was a lucky bounce, but I’ll take it.”
Paille added a short-handed, empty-net goal with 1:37 left when the Panthers pulled Markstrom to give them a 6-on-4 skating advantage.
The Panthers have scored on only one of their past 24 power plays, including the four-minute advantage when Lucic went off for cross checking and roughing.
“Those are momentum changers in the game,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “There’s different areas in the game that change momentum, and that’s definitely one of them.”
Markstrom played well in his second game since being called up from San Antonio of the AHL on Wednesday. The three goals against him were all difficult to defend, especially the one scored by Chara.
“What can I say? It’s a good hockey play and a good shot,” Markstrom said. “I didn’t think he was going to score, but he did. That’s a good goal.”
NOTES: Bruins RW Nathan Horton has never scored in eight games against his original NHL team. Horton played for the Panthers from 2003-10. … The Panthers’ home-losing streak is their longest since an 0-4-1 stretch from Feb. 16-March 6, 2011. … Panthers F Alex Kovalev turned 40. He is among eight active 40-plus players in the NHL.