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Last-minute goal lifts Bruins over Thomas, Panthers
Patrice Bergeron won an offensive zone faceoff as the Bruins played the puck behind the net before it squirted out in front. Smith alertly backhanded a shot from the inner edge of the left circle between the pads of Thomas for his first goal of the season.
Daniel Paille and defenseman Dougie Hamilton scored first-period goals and Tuukka Rask turned aside 27 shots to improve to 8-1-0 in his career versus Florida.
David Krejci collected his team-leading fifth assist on Hamilton's power-play tally, which snapped an 0-for-12 drought with the man advantage for the Bruins.
Kris Versteeg scored midway through the second period and Jesse Winchester forged a 2-2 tie after netting his first goal since December 2011. Thomas finished with 37 saves for the Panthers, who opened their season-high six-game homestand by falling into their second three-game losing skid.
After Boston scored twice in the first period, Versteeg converted Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau's touch pass out of the corner before wristing a shot from the right circle past Rask at 12:32 of the second.
Winchester knotted it up with six minutes remaining in the third period after Bruins captain Zdeno Chara fumbled the puck in front of Rask after a defensive zone draw, allowing Winchester to chip it over the netminder's extended left pad.
GAME NOTEBOOK: A two-time Vezina Trophy winner and 2011 Conn Smythe Trophy recipient with Boston, Thomas underwent a messy divorce from the club and opted to sit out the 2012-13 season. After signing with Florida, the 39-year-old played in his first game since exiting with a groin injury against Philadelphia on Oct. 8. ... Paille got to Thomas early after streaking up the left wing before chipping the puck over the veteran goaltender's shoulder at 3:45 of the first period. Hamilton doubled the advantage just over nine minutes later after skating along the blue line before unleashing a shot that deflected off Florida D Brian Campbell and past a screened Thomas. ... Three of Hamilton's six career goals have come on the power play.