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BRUINS 1, PANTHERS 1

Bruins like fit of tie

Still winless, team shows improvement

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Three games, a total of five goals, and two points (of a possible six) in the bank.

Not exactly an impressive start to the 2003-04 campaign for the Bruins. Last night's 1-1 overtime tie with the Florida Panthers at the Office Depot Center extended their winless streak to three (0-1-2-0) but although it wasn't a victory, it was a marked improvement from their first two outings. For the most part, the Bruins skated better, were more disciplined and were far more organized on special teams. The highlight of the contest was the outstanding performance by goalie Andrew Raycroft (34 saves), who was making his first start of the year.

"I thought we did a better job with our discipline," said coach Mike Sullivan. "For the most part, we did a real good job with that. We made pretty good decisions with the puck for the most part and it allowed us to get into a skating game, which is what we wanted to do. The momentum kind of went back and forth down the stretch. You have to give credit to their team, they played hard."

The first two periods in this one couldn't have been more different than a night before in Tampa. Against the Lightning, the Bruins were sloppy, undisciplined, and looked disorganized. It seemed as if every time one Bruin got back on the ice after a foolish penalty, another one was on his way off. But against the young Panthers, not only did the Bruins not take any dumb penalties early, they didn't take any until 16:24 of the second when defenseman Dan McGillis was whistled off for hooking.

Unlike in the first two contests in which the Bruins gave up a total of six power-play goals, they were able to kill off McGillis's infraction in no small part because the penalty killers weren't all overworked.

The Bruins took their first lead of the season at the 32-second mark of the middle period when left wing Sergei Samsonov took a feed from center Joe Thornton and tapped it in at the right post past goalie Roberto Luongo, who wound up with 32 saves.

Raycroft lost his bid for a shutout early in the third. Left wing Niklas Hagman, who was moved up during the game to Olli Jokinen's line by coach Mike Keenan, set up the goal. He dished a pass to right wing Viktor Kozlov, who skated into the left circle and dropped a pass for Jokinen, who was trailing the play. Jokinen ripped a slapper over the glove of Raycroft to pull the Panthers even at 1.

"It was an initial screen," said Raycroft. "Then it kind of opened up at the very last second as he was shooting and I just didn't have the right angle on it. But it was a good shot and he was in pretty close so . . ."

The Bruins faced a dangerous situation later in the period when the Panthers were awarded a two-man advantage. Defenseman Nick Boynton was called for interference at 11:48, giving Florida a power play. At 13:23, McGillis joined him in the box for slashing, giving the Panthers a 5-on-3 for 25 seconds. However, Boston effectively killed it off and Florida was unable to get a shot off.

Kozlov drew a penalty in overtime to give the Panthers a chance to win in the extra session, getting hauled down by defenseman Hal Gill. But Florida's 4-on-3 edge was nullified 27 seconds later when Jokinen was whistled off for hooking and the teams skated three a side. Although there was more room to skate, neither team could cash in.

"It's scary," said Raycroft of the 3-on-3 situation. "You know if one of our guys gets beat then it's 3-on-2 for sure, maybe 3 on 1 or 2 on 1. But he had to worry about the same thing down there."

It's bound to get scarier when they take on the Dallas Stars Wednesday night. After three games in four nights, the Bruins have a few days to rest and regroup before the next test.

"We're trying to focus on the details that are going to help us win," said Sullivan. "I think we're making progress."

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