Boston’s Brad Marchand blasted a hat-trick as the Bruins thrashed the Florida Panthers 8-0 in Boston on Friday.
The victory was the sixth in a row for last season’s Stanley Cup champions since they lost 2-0 to the Panthers two weeks ago.
The Bruins, who lead the Northeast division, also claimed top spot in the Eastern Conference after the Philadelphia Flyers lost 4-2 to the New York Rangers.
“One thing I said to them is we’ve gone from 15th to first in less than two months, and they deserve a lot of credit for that,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters. “They worked hard to accomplish that and I think it’s important they enjoy the three days of Christmas holiday that they have.”
The Panthers, who were missing a number of starters, including Stephen Weiss, still have a comfortable lead in the Southeast despite a run of three consecutive losses.
Marchand opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal early in the first period and completed his first NHL hat-trick with two goals nine minutes apart in the third period. The winger also picked up two assists.
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask made 30 saves for his second consecutive shutout.
Milan Lucic, Benoit Pouliot and Dennis Seidenberg added goals in the first period to build a 4-0 lead and chase Panthers starting goalie Jose Theodore, who recorded the shutout against Boston on Dec. 8.
Gregory Campbell and Patrice Bergeron also found the net for Boston in the second period.
RANGERS 4, FLYERS 2
In New York, Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves in his second win over powerful Philadelphia this season and rookie defenseman Stu Bickel had two more assists as New York moved into first place in the Atlantic Division.
Bickel, in his third NHL game, helped set up goals by Derek Stepan and Ruslan Fedotenko in the second period. He has four assists since being recalled from the AHL, hitting the score sheet in every game.
Marian Gaborik added his league-leading 21st goal early in the third period and Ryan Callahan also scored for the Rangers (21-8-4), who jumped over the Flyers (21-9-4) in the Atlantic with their fourth straight win — including three in four days over divisional foes.
SHARKS 2, KINGS 1, SO
In San Jose, California, Ryane Clowe scored the lone shootout goal in the fourth round and Antti Niemi stopped Mike Richards to lead San Jose to their fourth straight win.
Logan Couture scored in -regulation for the Sharks, who matched their best winning streak of the season following a stretch of five losses in six games. Niemi made 28 saves.
Richards scored the lone goal for Los Angeles, who had won their previous two games in a shootout. However,
Dustin Brown, who had the winners in those two contests, was stopped by Niemi in the third round this time. Los Angeles has scored fewer than three goals in regulation for 14 straight games — the longest such streak in franchise history.
HURRICANES 2, SENATORS 1, OT
In Raleigh, North Carolina, Tuomo Ruutu tipped in Jay Harrison’s shot in overtime, lifting Carolina past Ottawa.
Cam Ward made 22 saves for Carolina, which won their first overtime game of the season. The Hurricanes outshot the Senators 38-23, including 29-14 through the first two periods.
Carolina dominated the early play, but couldn’t get much past Craig Anderson, who stopped 36 shots for Ottawa. The Hurricanes had a 5-on-3 power play for 1 minute, 52 seconds past the midway point of the first period, but Anderson saved all their chances.