By Harvey Fialkov
Sun Sentinel (MCT)
---- — BOSTON — ‘Boston Strong’ took on two different meanings yesterday afternoon.
The playoff-bound Bruins were too strong for the injury-decimated, NHL-cellar dwelling Panthers in a hard-fought 3-0 loss at a sold-out TD Garden that mercifully ended one of the worst road trips in franchise history.
But far more significant than the Panthers’ second six-game losing streak of the season were the “Boston Strong” reminders of solidarity throughout the game of how a heartbroken, yet resilient city, country and on-ice rivals came together to honor the victims and heroes of this week’s terrorist atttacks at the Boston Marathon.
Panthers backup goalie Scott Clemmensen, who played four seasons of hockey at Boston College, wore a different law enforcement hat every period to pay tribute to the first responders.
“To show support,” Clemmensen said. “I love this city. I had friends who were here, so it was very surreal. When we got in Saturday it was good to see the sun shine and people in the park to return to some type of normalcy. And the fact they’re not going to let something like that scare them.”
The coaches, including goalie coach Robb Tallas and defensive coach Gord Murphy, who both played for the Bruins, wore commemorative ribbons on their suit jackets. Boston native Mike Santos, the Panthers assistant general manager, was happy to catch up with several family members who live in Boston at the game.
The heartiest applause was reserved for the scoreboard video shots of military and police personnel in the stands, and again after the game when Bruins players gave their jerseys to several first responders that elicited chants of U-S-A!
The Panthers all placed “Boston Strong” stickers on their helmets and skate blades. They bought “Boston Strong” hats and T-shirts with the American flag across it, with all the proceeds going to the family of the gap-toothed, 8-year-old Martin Richard, who was killed on Monday.
“Our players were excited to acknowledge that this has been a tough week for the people of Boston,” said Panthers coach Kevin Dineen. “There was enough try to give us an opportunity to be very competitive to win this game. At the end of it, you have to find a way with this group to create some kind of offense.
“There was effort (today)], which was encouraging and we have to have for us to go home and keep pushing with some dignity and pride.”
After another stirring rendition of the national anthem taken over by the 17,565 fans, it took only 3:03 for the tailspinning Panthers to return to the reality of facing an angry bunch of Bruins, who snapped a four-game losing streak and moved past idle Montreal into first place of the Northeast Division.
Ageless superstar Jaromir Jagr outfought Shawn Matthias and Quinton Howden for a loose puck before flicking it top-shelf over rookie goalie Jacob Markstrom for goal No. 681.
In a wide-open, 31-shot second period in which both goaltenders sparkled, the Bruins made it 2-0 on rookie Dougie Hamilton’s rocket from the point. Brad Marchand added an empty-netter at 18:38 of the third to complete Boston’s three-game series sweep of Florida and a nightmarish 0-4 road trip in which they were outscored 20-5.
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask heard cheers of “Tuuuuu-ka” throughout his sterling 28-save, fourth shutout of the season.
Panthers forward Tomas Fleischmann, who felt the team quit in the waning moments of Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the Rangers, felt better about Sunday’s effort.
“There was a good feeling in the dressing room in how we played,” he said. “We really worked hard, we showed them pretty good hockey. This is what we have to remember for next season and finish the season like that.”