Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk, top, drops Florida Panthers center Marty Reasoner, bottom, to the ice during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
BOSTON - Boston goalie Tim Thomas headed into the all-star break with another all-star performance.
Thomas stopped 34 shots to lead the Bruins to a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night, then packed up his gear for the NHL all-star game in Raleigh, N.C. Thomas leads the league with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .945 save percentage and was within 12 minutes of breaking a first-place tie in shutouts.
"Five years ago, it was a pipe dream that I'd ever be in an NHL all-star game," said Thomas, who will make his third all-star appearance. "I understand it's hard for some guys who need a break. But I, for one, am excited."
Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic scored for the Bruins, who have won seven of their last 10 games to head into the break in first place in the Northeast Division. Zdeno Chara, Boston's other all-star, had an assist.
"It's always good to go into one of these breaks on a high note and feeling good about yourself," Thomas said. "You can really savour the feeling of winning a couple of days."
Bryan Allen scored for Florida, and Tomas Vokoun stopped made 33 saves. The Panthers pulled Vokoun with 1:08 left and former Bruin Dennis Wideman put a shot on net with 1.4 seconds left, but Thomas saved it with his body.
"Tim Thomas has been exceptional this year," Panthers forward David Booth said. "He's one of the best goalies in the league. When he sees the puck, he's going to stop it."
Boston beat the Panthers for the fourth straight time, completing the season sweep. Florida has lost five of its last six games—the only win coming against the New York Rangers on Tuesday night—though only two of the losses have been in regulation.
"Thomas has had our number all year," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. "I can't fault our effort or the way we played on the end of a back-and-back situation, end of a road trip. We could have had a reason to be down, but it was a good effort."
Marchand gave the Bruins the lead with 6:29 left in the first period when he brought the puck around the back of the net and wrapped it around the post past Vokoun. It was Marchand's seventh goal in 10 games.
Lucic made it 2-0 in the second period with a wrist shot from outside the circle off a faceoff.
That set up Thomas, the 2009 Vezina Trophy winner, to take over the NHL lead with eight shutouts. But Allen spoiled that when a rebound squirted out past the left circle and he slapped it in to make it 2-1 with 11:23 left in the game.
Panthers forward Shawn Matthias went feet-first into the boards in the second period and crawled halfway to the bench before a whistle allowed the trainer to come out and help him. There was no further information on his condition, but DeBoer said, "Obviously, it doesn't look good."
NOTES: Willie O'Ree, who was the first black player in NHL history, dropped the ceremonial first puck. O'Ree broke the NHL's colour barrier when he played for Boston on Jan. 18, 1958. ... Bruins forward Marc Savard, who sustained a concussion against Colorado last week, has returned home to rest. Savard missed the last month of the 2009-10 season and the playoffs along with the first 23 games of this season with a concussion. ... Bruins F David Krejci appeared to injure his left arm on a hit against the boards in the first quarter, but he returned to the game. ... Florida has played in 27 one-goal games this season, tied for the most in the NHL. ... Thomas and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist each have seven shutouts.