BOSTON - The Bruins' struggles ended when they returned to Boston, and Michael Ryder returned to the ice.
Ryder had two goals and an assist, and Tim Thomas made 35 saves to earn his fourth shutout of the season and beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-0 on Thursday night. Boston has scored six times in each of its two games since Ryder returned from face surgery, and he has three goals and two assists since returning from a broken bone in his face.
"He's a threat whenever he's out there," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We talked about putting some emotion in our game when we were sliding, putting some jam and grit into it, and it allowed us to score some goals."
Chuck Kobasew scored twice for the Bruins, who have won two in a row since returning from a 1-4 road trip to match last year's total of 42 wins and remain nine points ahead of second-place Washington in the Eastern Conference. The Capitals, who beat Atlanta 4-3 to keep pace, visit Boston on Saturday.
"We just came back here and told ourselves we've got to go back to the way we played before," Bruins forward David Krejci said. "We got six goals last game, and six goals this game. Things are going our way right now."
It was the 11th career shutout for Thomas, who has won two straight after losing three of his previous four starts. He also had an assist, passing it up to the Ducks' zone to set up Ryder's second goal.
"A goalie's assists aren't really important. If I get 98 more maybe there's a bonus in my contract," he said. "If (only) they could get me six goals every game. We set the bar high."
Jean-Sebastien Giguere allowed three goals on seven shots before he was replaced at the 3:43 mark of the second period. Jonas Hiller made 17 saves for the Ducks.
The game was the Ducks debut for defenceman Ryan Whitney, who was traded to Anaheim from the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier in the day. Anaheim, which had won two consecutive games, entered the night in a four-way tie for the Western Conference's final two playoff spots.
"It found a way to turn in their favour in a hurry and we didn't respond well to adversity," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "That's a first-place hockey club. They played well and stuck to their system."
The Bruins were coming off a 6-1 victory over Florida on Tuesday night and kept the offence going. They led 1-0 after one period and 5-0 after two, responding to a brawl with two goals in the last two minutes of the second period to put the game out of reach.
It turned violent in the second period when Mike Brown punched Milan Lucic in the face, then the Bruins wing took Brown down and bashed him repeatedly in the back of the head while he was on the ice. Sheldon Brookbank came to his teammate's rescue and Boston's Marc Savard joined in as well, trying to clean things out.
Lucic and Brown continued jawing at each other in the penalty box while Brookbank was escorted out with a game misconduct as the third man in. Forty-four seconds later, Savard got tired of being crosschecked by Scott Niedermayer outside Ducks' zone and dropped the gloves with him.
In all, there were 58 penalty minutes in the game, which was played on the anniversary of the 1981 game between Boston and the Minnesota North Stars that set the NHL record of 406 penalty minutes. Neither Lucic nor Savard played in the third period; Julien confirmed they were injured but gave no information other than "upper body."
"They were definitely trying to get something going and get us off our game, and that doesn't work well with us," Ryder said. "It was nice to see the guys respond."
Thomas help set up the goal that made it 4-0, passing it from the crease to the blue line outside the Ducks' zone. Ryder brought it in and shot it off a defenceman with 1:59 to play in the period.
It was Thomas' second career assist and the first for a Boston goalie since his other, on April 13, 2006, against Montreal.
Kobasew made it 5-0 after a cross-ice pass left him with an open net to shoot at. Byron Bitz made it 6-0 with 5:19 left in the game.
Matt Hunwick also had a goal and an assist.
Notes: Bruins defenceman Aaron Ward was sick and was scratched. ... The Bruins honoured police, firefighters and members of rescue units as part of "Heroes Night." A former state patrolman, Dan Clark, sang the national anthem and other honorees were given rides on the Zamboni between periods. ... The Bruins are 21-2-3 in their last 26 home games. ... A Boston native, Whitney happened to be in town attending to a family matter when he got the news that he had been traded. "We actually had to fly somebody with his equipment from Pittsburgh," Carlyle said. "It's a lot harder with the new regulations with TSA. You can't fly a bag alone."