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Important assists by some cheerful Bruins

By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / December 21, 2011
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The Bruins spent yesterday spreading good cheer with their annual holiday toy delivery to local hospitals.

It was a well-earned day off the ice after a 3-2 victory over the Canadiens at TD Garden Monday night.

The team is riding a wave, having won five straight games and 19 of 22. Boston has one more game before the Christmas break, home against Florida Friday. The Panthers shut out the Bruins at the Garden Dec. 8, the team’s last loss.

Brad Marchand, the hero of Monday night’s game with his highlight-reel-caliber goal at 14:14 of the third period, said it isn’t bad to have a couple of extra days between games.

“They’re very big,’’ Marchand said. “We have a chance to rest here before Friday, the last game before the break. Hopefully, we’ll [end] on a good note. They beat us last time they were in here and we obviously want to get some revenge. A few days to rest up and get prepared will be nice for us.’’

Marchand said one of the keys to beating the Panthers, particularly goaltender Jose Theodore, is to put pressure on.

“We just have to make sure we get traffic in front of him and get pucks to the net,’’ Marchand said.

The Panthers are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and because it’s the last game before the recess and the last match before the Bruins have three games on the road, they want to keep their winning streak going.

“We’re obviously battling with them right now to stay on top of the conference,’’ Marchand said. “That’s a 4-point game for both teams and both teams are going to come out very hard so we have to make sure we’re ready for them.’’

Gregory Campbell returned to the lineup Monday night after missing three games because of a fractured foot. The Bruins were missing left wing Milan Lucic because of a one-game suspension but he will be back in the lineup Friday.

No matter who has been missing, the Bruins have found ways to win. One of the standouts lately has been Zach Hamill, who started Monday night on the first line, then was moved up to Lucic’s spot with David Krejci and Nathan Horton. Hamill saw time on the power play and penalty kill in addition to even strength.

“When you’re missing a big part of the puzzle like that, we all need to step up,’’ said center Patrice Bergeron, referring to Lucic’s absence. “I know I’ve said that a lot when we’re missing a guy, but that’s exactly what we need to do. Everyone needs to chip in.

“The guys who are coming in are always doing a good job. We have that depth that guys coming in are going to fill the void, not try to replace them, just play their game, and I think the guys did that. [Montreal] played a good game; it was a tough game for us to win but we found a way.’’

The first period was an unusual one for the Bruins. Although the score was tied at 1-1 after the first 20 minutes, there was virtually no contact. For a big, strong, fast team like the Bruins, it was very out of character.

“It took us a while, I guess, to get going,’’ Bergeron said. “Part of it was probably us not taking the body or not being first on the puck. We gave them too much time there and they created some offense and some plays out of it.

“I thought that third period was much better. That’s where we found our gear and we were executing and being first on the puck and that’s how we got that turnover for [Marchand’s] goal.’’

When he scored, Marchand’s goal looked to be an insurance tally because it gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead with less than six minutes remaining in regulation.

But at 18:46, Erik Cole closed the gap to a goal with his 13th of the season. Bergeron said it proved crucial that when the Bruins were ahead, 2-1, they kept trying to build on their lead.

“I think it’s important not to sit back,’’ Bergeron said. “When we’ve been doing that, it’s hurt us. The teams have been scoring and coming back against us, so I think we have to keep going at it and keep going on the offense. Not being careless, but still finding ways to create some offense.’’

Bergeron said this is the best run he can remember in his career.

“It’s been great,’’ he said. “That’s the way we need to keep playing.’’

According to NESN, Monday night’s game received a 7.7 rating (12.2 share), making it the second-highest-rated regular-season Bruins telecast in network history. The highest-rated regular-season game in NESN history was Nov. 23 when the Bruins earned an 8.4 rating (14.1 share) for a shootout win in Buffalo.

The current season-average rating now is at 5.0, up 85 percent over last season after the same number of games (29).

Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at marrapese@globe.com.

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