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Julien goes to his 1-2 punch

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / March 18, 2012
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Last year, when the Bruins dropped the first two games of the opening playoff round against Montreal, Claude Julien played his best remaining card.

This time, with his club staggering through a four-game losing streak, Julien threw down the same card again. The Bruins are hopeful the outcome is the same.

For the first time this season, Julien reunited Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, the power defense pairing that helped lead the Bruins to the Stanley Cup last year. Chara had mostly been playing with Johnny Boychuk. Seidenberg had been paired with Joe Corvo.

With his club leaking oil, Julien decided Saturday was the appropriate time to put the two back together. They responded with a shutdown effort in a 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers at TD Garden.

“You’re not going to hide the fact that you like that pair,’’ Julien said. “Especially if both of them are at their best, they probably become one of the best pairs in the league.’’

Chara and Seidenberg saw most of their shifts against Philadelphia’s No. 1 line of Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, and Jaromir Jagr. The forwards combined for 11 of Philadelphia’s 29 shots. None of the three got on the scoresheet.

Chara was at his intimidating best in the first, when he traded slashes with Hartnell and stared down the in-your-face wing. In the second, Seidenberg buried Wayne Simmonds with a thundering hit in the corner.

“We read off each other pretty well,’’ said Seidenberg, who shifted to the right side. “We pressured the guys as soon as they tried to do something. For the most part, we kept them pretty much in check.’’

Chara led all players with 28:41 of action. Seidenberg was right behind with 28:15 of ice time.

“We played together in the playoffs last year, so we’re used to each other,’’ Chara said. “It’s like with anybody else. We’re just used to each other. That’s the way this group has been working for as long as I’ve been here.’’

Extension for Thornton

Shawn Thornton signed a two-year contract extension that, according to TSN, will carry a $1.1 million annual average cap hit. He has four goals and eight assists in 70 games while averaging 9:06 of ice time. Thornton also has a league-leading 19 fights.

Thornton has been a fixture on the fourth line since signing with the Bruins on July 1, 2007.

He is considered one of the league’s toughest enforcers but has developed into an important all-around player. Thornton can create scoring chances with his hockey sense, straight-line speed, and physical play.

Corvo a scratch

Entering Saturday’s game, the Bruins had four players who had dressed for every previous match this season. Now, only three - Seidenberg, Patrice Bergeron, and Chris Kelly - can claim that designation.

Corvo was a healthy scratch for the first time this year. He had appeared in all 70 games before Saturday. Corvo scored his fourth goal in Thursday’s 6-2 loss to Florida, but he was also on the ice for three of the Panthers’ six goals.

In the second period Thursday, after retrieving a puck from behind the Boston net, Corvo committed a careless giveaway. Facing forechecking heat from Tomas Fleischmann, Corvo couldn’t connect on an outlet pass to Daniel Paille. Brian Campbell tracked down the giveaway and triggered the counterattack.

Seconds later, Stephen Weiss scored a net-front goal to give the Panthers a 3-1 lead.

Zanon checks in

Greg Zanon, a healthy scratch in two of the last three games, returned to the lineup. He skated alongside Adam McQuaid on the third pairing. In the first, Zanon absorbed a smack from Brayden Schenn after sending a breakout pass to Brian Rolston. Seconds later, Kelly scored the game’s first goal at 6:23. Zanon was also on the ice for Boston’s second goal. He had three hits and one blocked shot in 13:20 of ice time. Zanon most likely will be back in the lineup Monday against Toronto. “Greg Zanon is a good shot-blocker, a gritty player, who goes in and battles hard,’’ Julien said. “You’ve got to have guys, when it’s time to play against other lines, that will wear them down. I think we’ve got some of those guys that can do that.’’

Insurance policy

Before the game, the Bruins recalled Trent Whitfield from Providence on an emergency basis. Whitfield participated in warm-ups but was a healthy scratch. He was reassigned after the win. Last Saturday, when Benoit Pouliot pulled up lame after warm-ups, the Bruins were left with 11 forwards. Julien was forced to dress Mike Mottau as the 12th forward . . . Bergeron’s day: winning shootout goal, assist, 12 wins on 17 faceoffs, four shots, two blocked shots, two takeaways, 21:02 of ice time. No wonder, then, that Kelly called Bergeron “Mr. Everything’’ after the win . . . Nathan Horton missed his 25th straight game. Horton suffered a concussion Jan. 22 when he was hit by Philadelphia’s Tom Sestito. The Bruins couldn’t make Sestito answer for his actions, as the bruising forward was out because of a groin injury . . . Gregory Campbell squared off with Zac Rinaldo in a spirited first-period scrap. Rinaldo appeared to connect with a solid right at the fight’s conclusion . . . Maxime Talbot didn’t return after fighting Boychuk in the second period . . . The Flyers also lost Andreas Lilja in the first. The defenseman took a hit from Thornton in front of the net and never came back.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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