That victory won’t come close to making up for last spring’s playoff collapse, but it was an important win for the current season, as the Bruins snapped out of a funk that saw them win just one of their previous five games.
The Bruins did it by jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first and once again playing with a lead proved the perfect tonic for what had been ailing Boston. The Bruins are now 9-0-0 when scoring first and 8-0-0 when leading after the first period.
They’ll need to get off to a good start again on Thursday, but it won’t be easy against a talented Tampa Bay team. The Lightning are 6-1-1 in their last eight games and feature a deep and dangerous offensive attack.
Boston Bruins (13-8-2, 28 points) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (14-8-3, 31 points)
Dec. 2, 7 p.m. (NESN)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.
This is the second of four meetings this season between the Bruins and Lightning, with Tampa Bay winning the first in Florida on Nov. 22. Boston and Tampa Bay each won twice in last year’s four-game set, with both teams winning once at home and once on the road. The Bruins hold a 40-18-9-0 advantage in the all-time series, including a 24-4-6-0 mark in Boston.
Tim Thomas improved to 12-2-1 with a 1.46 GAA and a .955 save percentage after making 41 saves for his fifth shutout of the season on Wednesday. That matches his career high for shutouts in a season.
Tuukka Rask is just 1-6-1 this year with a 2.59 GAA and a .926 save percentage, and gave up three goals on 36 shots in the first meeting of the year with Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay’s Dan Ellis and Mike Smith have split the duties fairly evenly. Ellis is 6-4-3 with a 2.86 GAA and an .894 save percentage, while Smith is 8-4-0 with a 3.36 GAA and an .879 save percentage. Smith stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced to beat Boston last month and has a 2.12 GAA and .929 save percentage while going 3-4-0 against the Bruins.
Lightning center Nate Thompson spent three seasons in the Bruins’ system, playing primarily in Providence from 2005-08, though he did make it up for four games with Boston. Lightning assistant coach Daniel Lacroix also played for the Bruins in 1994-95. Forward Dominic Moore played at Harvard and St. Louis was a teammate of Thomas’ at the University of Vermont. New Lightning owner Jeff Vinik lives is Weston, Mass., and is a minority owner of the Red Sox. Bruins forward Mark Recchi came to Boston in a deadline deal with the Lightning in 2008 after spending one season in Tampa.
The Lightning have just eight fighting majors, tying for 24th in the league, just one year after finishing fourth with 73. Of course, Tampa let Zenon Konopka, who led the NHL with 33 fighting majors last year, walk and traded away heavyweight Matt Walker, as Steve Yzerman has imported Detroit’s anti-toughness approach. Agitator Steve Downie and Ryan Malone lead the Lightning with two fights, while Thompson, Adam Hall and Pavel Kubina each have one.
Boston has 22 fighting majors in 23 games, with Shawn Thornton leading with five. Greg Campbell, Mark Stuart and Adam McQuaid each have three and Milan Lucic two. The first game this season didn’t feature any fights, but last year’s series did produce two, with Byron Bitz taking on Konopka and Thornton battling Walker.
The Bruins will look to build off Wednesday’s emotional win in Philadelphia as they return home 24 hours later to host a hot Lightning squad. The Bruins will have to guard against a letdown after such a big victory though, and also have to find a way to have the energy needed to come out strong on short rest so that they are not playing from behind like they were in their recent skid before jumping out early and holding on for the 3-0 win over the Flyers.
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