Bolts, Bruins collide in Boston

( – The Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins are putting
together impressive runs down the stretch as they prepare for potential
playoff appearances.

But while the Lightning are fighting for first place in the Atlantic Division,
it is the wild card-hopeful Bruins who may have the edge on Thursday night
when the clubs meet at TD Garden.

Boston has given itself a bit of a cushion in the race for the Eastern
Conference’s second wild card spot, winning three straight while going 5-0-1
over its past six games. That has pushed the Bruins’ edge over its nearest
competitor, the Florida Panthers, to six points and they moved seven points up
on Ottawa with Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Senators.

Ryan Spooner scored a pair of goals, Loui Eriksson also scored and Tuukka Rask
made 39 saves for the Bruins. Spooner has three goals and four assists over a
six-game point streak.

Boston scored all three of its goals in the second period despite getting
outshot 21-10 in the frame. The Bruins also were outshot 11-4 in the final
frame as well, but Rask stood tall on his 28th birthday.

“After the second period I even mentioned it, you were up 3-0, you can thank
your goaltender because we did a poor job of reloading,” Bruins coach Claude
Julien said. “They were coming at us on the rush, and for whatever reason
there was a lot of standing still.”

Boston is looking to put together its longest winning streak since a five-game
run from Jan. 7-15 tonight and has dominated Tampa Bay over the past few
seasons. The Bruins have won nine in a row and 13 of the previous 15 meetings
overall as well as nine straight and 12 of the last 13 played in Boston.

The Bruins took the first of four meetings with the Lightning this season 4-3
in Boston on Jan. 13 as Tampa Bay fell to 4-29-3 all-time at TD Garden.

David Pastrnak scored twice in the win and Rask made 16 saves, while the
Lightning got two goals from Steven Stamkos and a pair of assists by Ondrej

Rask is 8-2-0 with a 2.09 goals against average, .922 save percentage and
three shutouts in 10 lifetime meetings with the Lightning.

Ben Bishop, who stopped 30-of-34 shots faced in the loss to the Bruins, is
0-3-1 with a 3.87 GAA and .873 save percentage over four games in this series
and will likely get the call as Tampa Bay tries to win in Boston for the first
time since March 25, 2010.

Bishop is coming off an excellent outing on Tuesday as he posted a 19-save
shutout in the Lightning’s 1-0 overtime win versus the Montreal Canadiens. It
was the 11th shutout of his career and gave the Lightning their fourth victory
in a row.

The win was big for the Lightning as they pulled within one point of the
first-place Canadiens in the Atlantic Division, though Montreal has a game in
hand and hosts Ottawa tonight.

“I know these are regular season games, but it’s just a confidence builder for
our team knowing that we can come into this building and win,” said Tampa Bay
head coach Jon Cooper. “It’s a tough environment to play in. It’s the holy
grail of hockey, and it’s a lot of fun to play here.”

Tyler Johnson was the only skater to beat Montreal’s Carey Price as he put
home a rebound of his own backhand attempt 63 seconds into overtime.

Johnson has three goals and six assists over a career high-tying seven-game
point streak and leads Tampa Bay with 40 assists and 65 points.

Tampa Bay hasn’t won five in a row since a season-high six-game run from Oct.
28-Nov. 9, but could be down as many as three players for tonight’s matchup.

Palat is dealing with a lower-body injury sustained when he took a shot off
the back of his leg late in the second period, while fellow forward Cedric
Paquette and recently-acquired defenseman Braydon Coburn joined Palat in
missing practice on Wednesday due to undisclosed injuries.

However, forward J.T. Brown could return tonight from a three-game absence
caused by an upper-body ailment.

The Bolts, who also have won eight of their past six, begin a six-game
homestand on Saturday that includes a visit from the Canadiens on Monday.