BOSTON (AP) — Brad Marchand had his first career hat trick and a career-high five points to help Boston beat the Florida Panthers 8-0 on Friday night, giving the Bruins their sixth consecutive victory and their most lopsided of the season.

Marchand scored a short-handed goal to start things off, then added two more and a pair of assists to lead the defending Stanley Cup champions to their 20th win in 23 games. After his third goal, midway through the third period to make it 8-0, fans showered the ice with all kinds of headwear, including a fair number of Santa hats.

Patrice Bergeron had a goal and two assists, and Tuukka Rask made 30 saves for Boston.

Jose Theodore allowed four goals on 14 shots in the first period and was replaced by Scott Clemmensen. The former Boston College goalie made 17 saves the rest of the way.

Milan Lucic, Benoit Pouliot, Dennis Seidenberg and Gregory Campbell also scored.

It was a matchup of division leaders and teams fighting for the lead in the Eastern Conference. 
And it was never close.

Marchand gave the Bruins the lead 6 minutes into the game, circling around the back of the net and into the slot before putting his shot off Theodore’s chest, under his arm and into the net. Lucic made it 2-0 at 13:40 and Pouliot gave Boston a 3-0 lead with the prettiest goal of the night, picking up the puck after a faceoff in the Bruins zone and taking it the rest of the way down the ice.

He made a move at the left circle, faked out Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and then, falling to his knees, backhanded the puck past Theodore.

It was obvious the Panthers’ goalie, who had a 40-save shutout against Boston on Dec. 8 — the Bruins’ only regulation loss at home since October — was having an off-night. But Florida coach Kevin Dineen thought he could wait another 89 seconds until the end of the period to make a change.
Instead, Seidenberg made it 4-0 just 31 seconds later with a slap shot from the point — assisted by Marchand.

Marchand also assisted on the next goal, when Campbell scored to make it 5-0 just 3:50 into the second. After Bergeron made it 6-0 later in the period, Marchand opened the scoring in the third with a shot that deflected into the net off a Panthers defenseman.

Tyler Seguin set Marchand up for a one-timer past Clemmensen to make it 8-0.

It was Rask’s second shutout in four games, and he extended his shutout streak to 155 minutes, 10 seconds. The backup to Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas, Rask is 7-1-1 in his last eight starts.

Notes: PGA champion and rookie of the year Keegan Bradley, who grew up in Massachusetts, dropped the ceremonial first puck. … Bruins national anthem singer Rene Rancourt sang Christmas carols during the break between the second and third periods. … Bruins F Rich Peverley did not play because of an undisclosed injury. … The Panthers were without F Stephen Weiss, their No. 2 scorer, who left Thursday night’s game against Ottawa with an undisclosed injury. The Panthers have lost five players to injury in their past four games; they are without seven forwards in all.
 

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