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Bruins win sixth straight; Panthers suffer one-sided defeat

The Santa hats came flying out of the stands to celebrate Brad Marchand's third goal of the game, and the Boston fans began taunting the Florida Panthers by chanting, "Merry Christmas!"

The defending Stanley Cup champions are heading into the holiday break the same way they started their summer: As the hottest team in hockey.

Marchand had his first career hat trick and a career-high five points to help Boston beat Florida, 8-0, on Friday night, giving the Bruins their sixth consecutive victory and their most lopsided win of the season. Boston has won 20 of its last 23 games.

"Everyone's playing the same level as last year," Marchand said. "We need to keep it going the whole year. That's the goal right now."

Marchand scored a short-handed goal to start things off, assisted on Boston's fourth and fifth goals and then scored twice more in the third. After making it 8-0 midway through the third period, the sold-out crowd of 17,565 showered the ice with all kinds of headwear, including a fair number of Santa hats.

"You can't put into words how the last year and a half have gone," said Marchand, who was fighting to make the team during training camp in 2010 and wound up a key player on the NHL champions. "All the things kind of lined up, and it's been great."

Patrice Bergeron had a goal and two assists, and Tuukka Rask made 30 saves for Boston for his second straight shutout -- a scoreless streak of 155 minutes, 10 seconds. The backup to Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas, Rask is 7-1-1 in his last nine starts.

"Lots of goals. It's good for the fans," Rask said. "You pretty much feel if you don't mess up you're going to be fine."

Milan Lucic, Benoit Pouliot, Dennis Seidenberg and Gregory Campbell also scored as Boston moved into the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

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