- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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The last time the Bruins saw Thomas on the ice, it was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on April 25, 2012, at TD Garden. It was Thomas' final game as a member of the Bruins.
After a 16-month hiatus to spend more time with his family, the 39-year-old netminder returned to the NHL this season with the Panthers and was between the pipes against his former team at BB&T Center in Sunshine, Fla.
SAVE OF THE GAME: During his time as Thomas' backup in Boston, Rask witnessed many timely saves by his predecessor. On Thursday, it was a huge glove save by Rask in the first period that proved crucial. The Panthers' Tomas Fleischmann created a partial breakaway and attempted to slip a backhander past Rask, who made the glove save to keep the game scoreless. On the ensuing faceoff, the Bruins gained control and broke out of their zone when defenseman Dennis Seidenberg moved the puck to Paille, who swooped in and beat Thomas to the short side as Boston gained a 1-0 lead at 3:45.
POWER PLAY: The Bruins connected on their first man-advantage of the game, snapping an 0-for-12 skid. Boston's top unit capitalized when defenseman Zdeno Chara, who was camped out in front, screened Thomas as Hamilton's shot from the point made its way through traffic and beat Florida's goalie to the top right corner to give Boston a 2-0 lead at 12:47 of first period.
O-ZONE: After tweaking his lines the past two games, Bruins coach Claude Julien went back to the lineup he began the season with to start the game. Brad Marchand was back on the second line, along with Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson. Reilly Smith returned to the third line with Chris Kelly and Jordan Caron. However, Julien switched back early in the first period and Marchand returned to the third line, with Smith on the second.
HEADS UP: Smith had his bell rung early in the second period when the Panthers' Mike Weaver applied a clean hit and crushed Smith into the end wall as he was trying to play the puck to the right of Thomas. Smith was slow to get to his feet and skate to the bench, but did not miss a shift.
SCRATCHED: Julien recently said he would find a way to rotate his defensemen, and that was evident against the Panthers. It was Adam McQuaid's turn to sit as he was the healthy scratch. In five games, McQuaid has one assist with a plus-2 rating. Sophomore blueliner Dougie Hamilton returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past two games.
CONNECTIONS: Thomas isn't the only link between the Bruins and the Panthers. Seidenberg and Campbell both played for the Panthers. Florida assistant coach Craig Ramsay served as an assistant in Boston, while fellow Florida assistant Gord Murphy played parts of two seasons for the Bruins. Florida forwards Brad Boyes and Kris Versteeg also played for the Bruins.