SUNRISE (AP) — Reilly Smith scored the game-winning goal with 59 seconds left in the third period and the Boston Bruins beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Thursday night.
Smith backhanded the puck into the net between the legs of Tim Thomas after a faceoff in the Panthers’ zone. The goal spoiled Thomas’ first game against his former team since joining the Panthers as a free agent.
Dougie Hamilton and Daniel Paille also scored goals for the Bruins, while Tuukka Rask made 27 saves.
Jesse Winchester and Kris Versteeg scored for the Panthers and Thomas stopped 37 shots.
Thomas overcame a shaky first period to turn in a solid game until giving up the goal in the final minute.
The 39-year-old Thomas, who spent his first eight NHL seasons with Boston, returned to the lineup after suffering a groin injury on Oct. 8 that forced him to an early exit after giving up two goals on five shots in a 2-1 loss at Philadelphia.
Thomas helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner also won the Conn Smythe Trophy that season as playoff MVP. Thomas followed that by going 35-19-1 with a 2.36 goals-against average and five shutouts in 2011-12, then sat out the 2013 lockout-shortened season.
Trailing 2-1, the Panthers tied it at 2 with six minutes left in the third on Winchester’s goal.
After the Panthers won a faceoff in the Bruins zone, Nick Bjugstad took a shot on goal. Rask blocked the shot, but lost control of the puck. It drifted in front of the crease and Winchester took a couple whacks at it before poking it in.
Florida closed to 2-1 in the second period after Versteeg took a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau in the right circle and wristed it past Rask at 12:32.
Boston went ahead 1-0 on Paille’s goal in the first. Paille skated in from the left circle and his wrist shot went high into the net at 3:45.
The Bruins took a 2-0 lead later in the period on Hamilton’s power-play goal. Hamilton took a pass from David Krejci just inside the blue line at the point and fired the puck past Thomas at 12:47.
Hamilton, a healthy scratch the past two games, notched his first goal of the season.
NOTE: The Bruins broke an 0-for-12 power-play drought with Hamilton’s first-period goal. … The Bruins and Panthers will meet five times as Atlantic Division rivals this season. Boston won all three matchups against the Panthers last season, outscoring Florida 11-2. … Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen was scratched on Thomas’s return. Jacob Markstrom remains the backup goalie.
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