Bruins chase fourth straight win, battle Lightning
Monday, 12.28.2009 / 7:30 PMBRUINS (19-11-7) at LIGHTNING (14-15-9)
Boston 5-3-2; Tampa Bay 3-6-1
Second of four meetings this season. Marco Strum scored a pair of second-period goals on Dec. 2 to help the Bruins open up a close game and claim a 4-1 win over the Lightning at the TD Garden. Marc Savard
reached a milestone in the game with his 200th career goal and Tim Thomas
stopped 39 shots.
Boston completes a quick trip through the Sunshine State with its second game in as many nights. Having already disposed of the Panthers with a 2-1 win on Sunday, the Bruins will attempt to complete the sweep against the Lightning. Overall, this is their third of four straight games against Southeast Division competition. They beat Atlanta right before the Christmas break, and will face those same Thrashers again Wednesday in their final game before the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Friday.
It seems Boston caught a break Sunday when Florida coach Peter DeBoer elected to start backup goaltender Scott Clemmensen instead of Tomas Vokoun, who shut the Bruins out in consecutive starts, once this season and once last season. They didn't exactly light up Clemmensen, but goals by Michael Ryder and Sturm were enough to win thanks to another solid outing by Thomas, who made 25 saves.
"It was just a matter of time. Our team is starting to gel a little bit," coach Claude Julien said. "We've had some new faces in our lineup, but I think we're starting to understand the concept of what we're looking for and just try to keep getting better."
The picture is starting to become a bit brighter in Tampa, with a 4-3 win over Atlanta on Saturday the third in four games for the Lightning. Alex Tanguay and Ryan Malone
scored 1:41 apart in the third period of what had been a 2-2 game, and defenseman Mike Lundin had a memorable moment earlier when he scored his first NHL goal in his 111th career game.
"We had talked about the significance of winning this game in the pre-game skate and in the team meeting," Lundin said. "I realize this is a pretty important game for the team, and just to refresh ourselves over the [Christmas] break, I think they were all focused on this next little stretch."
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask
, who could get the start Monday, has allowed two goals or less in seven straight starts and leads the League with a 1.97 goals-against average. Ryder has goals in consecutive games.
Martin St. Louis
continues to rack up the assists for Tampa Bay. He has a goal and six helpers during a four-game points streak, and is third in the League this season with 35 assists. Vincent Lecavalier
recorded three assists against Atlanta and also has a goal and six assists in his last four.
The Bruins are awaiting the return of forward Milan Lucic
from a high-ankle sprain. Defenseman Mark Stuart is also on injured reserve with a broken sternum and likely to miss another month.
Lightning goalie Antero Niittymaki did not dress for Saturday's game due to personal reasons. Mike Smith started and was backed up by Riku Helenius. Defenseman Paul Ranger
and Matt Walker and forwards Jeff Halpern and Todd Fedoruk are all on injured reserve.
Boston will be aiming for its fourth consecutive win, which would tie its season high. The Bruins had four separate streaks of at least five straight victories last season, including a 10-game winning streak from Dec. 12, 2008-Jan. 1, 2009.
With all the attention that will surround the Bruins and Flyers on New Year's Day, it appears both teams are determined to head into the Winter Classic on a high note -- Philadelphia also won its third straight on Sunday.