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PANTHERS 6, BRUINS 4

Bruins cannot stand the heat

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The roller coaster ride continued for the Bruins last night. A week ago, it was an inspired home win over Toronto, followed the next evening by a road loss to the Maple Leafs.

On Tuesday, it was a dominating Boston win over the Capitals in Washington, which had all the earmarks of being a good jumping-off point at the start of this three-game road trip.

Instead, the Bruins followed that up last night with a sloppy 6-4 loss to the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center.

Whenever the Bruins seem to generate momentum this season, they can't keep it going. The Bruins have played 37 games, and have 45 remaining. If they don't pick up the pace, and soon, the end of their season will come April 15, with no playoff berth.

It didn't help that the Bruins were without Sergei Samsonov, who was sent home last night to be examined by doctors because of an inflamed rib cage. Samsonov had an outstanding game against Washington and was rounding into form before this latest setback. But Samsonov's absence wasn't why the Bruins lost. Turnovers killed them. After several outings in a row of responsible two-way play, the Bruins gave up the puck far too easily against the Panthers, and it cost them.

''It's real tiring," said goalie Andrew Raycroft, who had a long night in his first start in four games. ''I was able to watch the last three games and to be able to get in there, it was good to get in there . . . and then three goals [against on five shots]."

The Bruins gave up three but they also scored three as the teams went into the first intermission tied. Boston struck first at 1:13 when defenseman Hal Gill dished a perfect pass to Marco Sturm in front. Defenseman Brad Stuart had his first of three assists in the period, a career high.

But the lead lasted a little more than a minute as the Panthers took advantage of Boston's sloppy play in its zone. Former Bruins pivot Jozef Stumpel set up the tally when he dished a feed from the right side to left wing Martin Gelinas, who redirected it past Raycroft at 2:31.

Boston went back on top on a power-play goal at 5:55. Stuart picked up another assist when his shot from the point was tipped home by Brad Boyes (two goals) to the stick side of Roberto Luongo. It was Boyes's first goal in nine games.

That lead lasted a mere nine seconds. Florida center Olli Jokinen (two goals, one assist) took a pass from left wing Gary Roberts and broke in alone on Raycroft. Jokinen backhanded a shot through the netminder's pads at 6:04, and the Panthers had two goals on only two shots.

Only three seconds after Gill's hooking penalty expired, the Panthers mounted their first lead. Once again, it was Jokinen who found the back of the net. This time, it was a result of a fortuitous bounce. A shot from long range by defenseman Jay Bouwmeester hit the back boards and caromed in front for Jokinen, who was outside the left post. He drilled it into the cage and it was 3-2 at 8:23.

At 10:21, the Bruins appeared to be in further trouble when defenseman David Tanabe was whistled for tripping. Instead, though, Boston foiled Florida's power play with a shorthanded goal. Stuart, earning point No. 3, fired a long lead pass for P.J. Axelsson, who beat Luongo from the right circle for his seventh of the season at 10:31. It was Axelsson's first goal in 16 games.

The second period was horrifying for the Bruins, who needed a calculator to figure out their turnovers, as they fell behind, 5-3. At 12:54, center Joe Nieuwendyk put the Panthers up, 4-3, when he scored on a wrister from the left circle. Florida made it a two-goal lead with only 28.3 seconds remaining in the period when center Chris Gratton scored off a scramble in front.

The Bruins fought back in the third as Boyes potted his second of the game at 9:22. The Bruins kept the pressure on, and their best chance came when Glen Murray rang a shot off the post with about eight minutes left, but unlike a night earlier, they couldn't knot this one.

Roberts sealed it with an empty-net goal with 32.6 ticks on the clock.

And the clock, even though the game is over, continues to tick on the Bruins.

''It seems like we're going the right way and we're doing some good things, and we're also doing some things to shoot ourselves in the foot," said Gill, who took four minutes in penalties in the final seven minutes. ''It kind of kills our momentum."

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