Rapid Reaction: Bruins 4, Panthers 1

BOSTON -- It wasn't pretty. It wasn't the full 60-minute effort Bruins coach Claude Julien was looking for. But in the end, Boston skated away with a 4-1 win over the lowly Florida Panthers on Thursday night at TD Garden.

BruinsPanthersThe Bruins received goals from Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron (two) and Shawn Thornton. Goaltender Tuukka Rask made 29 saves and improves to 14-2-3 in 19 starts this season.

Chara gave the Bruins 1-0 lead at 3:55 of the first period. Teammate David Krejci's slap shot from the high slot went wide left and the puck ricocheted off both the back and side walls before Chara stepped into a one-timer and blasted it past Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen to give Boston the early advantage. The goal was Chara's sixth of the season.

The Bruins added to their lead when they finished off a nifty tape-to-tape-to-tape passing play between Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and Bergeron at 14:56 of the first period. Bergeron's seventh tally of the season put the Bruins up 2-0.

With the Bruins still holding a two-goal lead in the second period, the Panthers cut the deficit when Florida's Shawn Matthias scored a short-handed goal at 3:10.

The third period was sloppy on both ends of the ice, but due to the relentless forecheck of the Bruins' fourth line, Thornton scored a much-needed insurance goal at 12:43 for a 3-1 lead. It was Thornton's third goal of the season. The Bruins are 23-4 when Thornton scores.

Bergeron added an empty-net goal with 57.2 seconds remaining in regulation.

SAVE OF THE GAME: With the Bruins holding a 1-0 lead, Rask turned in the save of the game when he robbed the Panthers' Jonathan Huberdeau of a possible goal at 7:47 of the first period. Huberdeau broke in and attempted to snipe the high glove side, but Rask snared it to maintain the one-goal lead. What makes it even more significant is the fact that nearly half of the goals Rask has allowed this season have been to the high glove side.

JOHNSON RETURNS: With Adam McQuaid out of the lineup with an undisclosed minor injury, veteran blueliner Aaron Johnson returned after being a healthy scratch for the previous 18 games. He was paired with Johnny Boychuk.

MILESTONE: With Boston's win, Bruins coach Claude Julien surpassed Milt Schmidt on the franchise's all-time coaching wins list with his 246th victory, taking over sole possession of second place in that category. Art Ross (1924-1945) is first with 361 career wins for the Bruins. Julien has a 246-136-53 record in 435 games behind the Boston bench.

UP NEXT: In pre-St. Patrick's Day festivities, the Bruins will host the Washington Capitals on Saturday (1 p.m.) at TD Garden. In the last meeting, the Bruins surrendered a three-goal lead and lost to the Capitals 4-3 on March 5 at Washington. On Saturday, the Bruins will wear their annual green sweaters during the pregame warm-up.