Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins game preview
Steven Stamkos’ scoring binge has been a significant part of Tampa Bay’s five consecutive wins, but the Lightning are also showcasing an improved defense.
The Lightning will next try to slow down the league’s most-prolific scoring team of late, the Boston Bruins, on Sunday night while registering their first road win streak over their Atlantic Division rivals.
Stamkos is two shy of the longest goal-scoring streak of his career – a seven-game run in 2009-10 – after tallying one in each game of the Lightning’s win streak. He also has two assists in that span as well as a shootout winner, which came in a 6-5 victory over Winnipeg on Feb. 18 to begin the run.
Tampa Bay (35-22-4) has since given up a combined five goals in four games. Opponents are 0 for 9 on the power play in that span.
Ben Bishop registered his first shutout since Jan. 12 and third of the season in Friday’s 4-0 victory in New Jersey.
"I think we’re getting there. I think we’re playing better hockey," Bishop said after making 21 saves. "I think we can still take another step forward here, but it’s a process. Obviously, these have been some big games against some (teams) right behind us (in the standings), and we’ve been able to get some wins. We need to take this in stride and keep moving forward."
Tampa Bay has the same point total as Boston (34-22-6) but holds second place in the Atlantic, having played one fewer game and with 32 non-shootout victories compared to the Bruins’ 30.
No team has scored more since last Saturday than Boston, which has totaled 20 goals while winning three of four with Brad Marchand and Matt Beleskey leading the way.
Marchand has four goals and an assist in those three victories. His scoring binge dates back to Jan. 16, recording 17 of his career-high 32 goals in the past 19 games.
Beleskey has five goals in the last four games following a 15-game drought. He scored two in a 4-1 win over Carolina on Friday.
"Beleskey has been good lately," coach Claude Julien said. "Obviously pucks are starting to go in for him. He’s working hard, finishing his checks and playing gritty."
Beleskey and Marchand both scored in a 3-1 road win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 31 in the teams’ last meeting. Marchand sat out a 6-3 home loss to the Lightning on Oct. 12 because of a concussion.
Stamkos scored the tiebreaking goal and Brian Boyle netted a pair as Tampa Bay ended an 11-game losing streak in Boston that included the playoffs. The Lightning have six wins in 48 all-time regular-season and postseason games there.
Stamkos has totaled four goals in his last three games in Boston, and his 11 at TD Garden – including the playoffs – are his second-most in any opposing arena. He has 12 goals at Florida’s BB&T Center.
Tampa Bay is seeking a season-high fourth consecutive road win while Boston is attempting to earn back-to-back home victories for the first time since Dec. 16-20.
The Bruins are 5-8-1 in their last 14 at the Garden and 9-2-0 in their past 11 away from home.
Tuukka Rask is 0-2-1 with a 4.76 goals-against average in his last three starts against Tampa Bay but has gone 4-1-0 with a 1.61 GAA in his past five overall. He’s allowed one goal in each of his past two games while facing at least 40 shots.