BOSTON — The Boston Bruins spoiled Tim Thomas’ homecoming Tuesday night.
Thomas, who led the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup but walked out on the team to take a year off before last season, made his TD Garden return and was peppered by his former team. The red-hot Bruins took a 4-0 lead and cruised to their fourth straight victory, a 6-2 decision over Thomas and the Florida Panthers.
Thomas lost to the Bruins in Florida on Oct. 17 but was out with a groin injury the first time the Panthers came north Nov. 7. He was cheered during a video tribute and waved to the crowd from the press box that night and was cheered again during Tuesday’s introductions. However, he heard a loud chant of “Tho-mas” after the Bruins’ fifth goal Tuesday.
Thomas, who made 35 saves, clubbed Bruins center Carl Soderberg (not a former teammate) over the head with his stick with 3.4 seconds left in the game, drawing a penalty.
Center David Krejci scored one goal and set up two others, left winger Milan Lucic scored twice, and defenseman Zdeno Chara and right wingers Reilly Smith and Shawn Thornton also scored for the Bruins, who have 18 goals in their past three games.
Right winger Jarome Iginla and defenseman Matt Bartkowski each recorded two assists for the Bruins (34-15-3). Iginla has seven points in the past three games, Krejci eight in the past six.
Boston, 5-0-1 in its last six games, is 12-2-0 in its past 14 home games, 17-2-2 in the past 21.
Former Bruins right winger Brad Boyes scored his 14th goal for the Panthers (21-24-7), ending Tuukka Rask’s shutout bid in the final minute of the second period. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov scored a power-play goal, his fifth goal of the season, four minutes into the third period — the goal ending a drought of 43 straight power plays without a goal for the Panthers. The tally made it 4-2, but the Bruins scored the last two goals.
Fans threw hats on the ice after Lucic’s second goal, some still thinking it was his third of the game — even though the Bruins’ second goal was changed to Chara, the captain’s fourth in three games, 13th of the season. The change was announced, but several people didn’t notice or care.
Lucic, who had one goal in his previous 14 games, scored his 14th and 15th. Smith extended his points streak to seven straight games (eight points) with his 18th goal of the year, on a power play off a pass from Soderberg.
Thornton did all the work himself for his fourth goal, his first since Nov. 19.
Rask, who made 28 saves, improved to 10-1 lifetime against the Panthers.
NOTES: Bruins C Chris Kelly, who missed 22 games with a broken leg, was activated from injured reserve. Boston sent C Ryan Spooner and D Zach Trotman to AHL Providence. ... The Bruins continue their three-game homestand Thursday when they face the rival Montreal Canadiens. The Panthers play Game 3 of a four-game trip, at Toronto, on Thursday. ... RW Tomas Kopecky returned for Florida after missing four games with a shoulder injury. Panthers C Shawn Matthias was out with an illness, and Florida placed C Aleksander Barkov on IR due to an upper-body injury. ... Panthers D Tom Gilbert played in his 500th NHL game. ... D Zdeno Chara, the Bruins’ captain, received a standing ovation following a first-period video tribute to his 500th NHL point, which he collected Monday.