Roberto Luongo did slow down the Bruins, but not even he could stop them from continuing to beat up on the Panthers.
Actually, few have done much of anything against the Bs lately.
On Sunday, arguably the top team in the Eastern Conference rolled into town and put on a show in the third period, scoring four goals en route to a 5-2 win over the Panthers.
“They have some players and they made some plays, scored some goals,’’ said Luongo, who lost at Boston last month while a member of the Canucks. Sunday he made 37 saves.
“We just have to keep playing hard and learn from what happens on the ice. They’ve won the Cup, are one of the best teams in the league.’’
Boston has won five in a row to take over the top slot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins have also absolutely owned the Panthers. Boston has won eight in a row against Florida, 14 of the past 16 and 20 of 26.
When asked if he was glad his team was done with the Bruins for the year, coach Peter Horachek exhaled. “Yes,’’ he said.
Florida went 0-5 against the Bruins this season, not picking up a single point in the standings. Boston outscored the Panthers 22-8 in the process.
“They are still a benchmark, still a team we have to gauge ourselves against,’’ said Horachek, who took over the team a day after Florida lost 4-1 in Boston on Nov. 7 although the decision to fire Kevin Dineen had already been made.
“They are a disciplined team by their system and attitude. They don’t have panic to their game. They just keep working at it. A lot of times things go their way.’’
The Panthers watched Boston dominate play and keep pressure on Luongo throughout, the Bruins showing no ill effects from beating host Tampa Bay in a long shootout the night before.
Despite being outplayed, the Panthers took the initial lead as Boston native and former Boston College hero Jimmy Hayes followed up a fat rebound to beat backup goalie Chad Johnson seven minutes into the second period.
“We have to stay in the games, keep getting the pucks in,’’ Hayes said. “We can’t score and give them right back.’’
The Bruins didn’t wait too long to tie things up, getting a reviewed goal from Andrej Meszaros just before the 10-minute mark.
Luongo contested the goal as Carl Soderberg made contact with the Florida goalie as the shot was coming through, but that non-call couldn’t be enforced by review in Toronto.
“He interfered with it, but if they don’t call it on the ice, Toronto can’t,’’ Horachek said.
Boston took control of things in the third, scoring three goals within a five-minute span.
Patrice Bergeron made it 3-1 with a power-play goal, but Hayes cut Florida’s deficit in half 39 seconds later by working the puck between Johnson’s skates.
Boston all but ended things 23 seconds after Hayes’ goal as Jarome Iginla got his 550th NHL goal by roofing a shot past Luongo. Chris Kelly iced things with an empty-net goal with 1:08 remaining.
“We all know they’re a good team, but they outworked us again despite playing back-to-back,’’ Jonathan Huberdeau said. “We should have taken advantage of that and didn’t. Hopefully we beat them one day.’’
Defenseman Erik Gudbranson had to be helped into the Florida locker room after taking a hit to the knee from Brad Marchand.
Gudbranson hit the ice and was slow to make his way back to the bench.
Horachek said he didn’t have a status update after the game. Florida was expected to recall a defenseman from AHL San Antonio anyway, so that move could come Monday.
• Before Meszaros’ goal midway through the second, Luongo hadn’t given up a goal as a member of the Panthers since their 2006 season finale.
Atlanta’s Steve McCarthy scored late in the first period of that overtime win for Florida.
Luongo went 2 hours 13 minutes 23 seconds of game time with the Panthers without giving up a goal over that span of almost eight years.