To continue one of the best runs in the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning will need to solve the Boston Bruins.
The Lightning try to avoid a season sweep to the Bruins as the teams meet Friday at St. Pete Times Forum.
Tampa Bay (35-24-3) is an impressive 16-3-1 over the last 20 games, including a 5-4 overtime victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday that gave the Lightning a slim one-point lead over the Thrashers atop the Southeast Division.
Martin St. Louis scored 3:44 into overtime off an assist from Brad Richards as each player recorded a goal and two assists.
"It was nice to get a point on them ... but it was two good teams going at it tonight," said St. Louis, who has a team-high 83 points. "It was a fun game to play and I'm sure it was a fun game to watch."
Tampa Bay's leading scorer has certainly been helping his team get those points, also scoring the decisive shootout goal in Tuesday's 3-2 win over Florida. He has five goals and six assists during a six-game point streak.
St. Louis has three points in the last two matchups with Boston, but was held without one in the prior four meetings. Vincent Lecavalier scored his NHL-leading 40th goal Thursday and has six goals and six assists during his own six-game point streak.
Andre Roy's first goal of the season in the third period forced overtime as the Lightning overcame an early 2-0 deficit.
"That's huge," Roy said. "We never gave up. We kept working. ... It was a big two points."
Tampa Bay's last four games have been decided beyond regulation, which has also been a recent trend in their matchups with Boston. The Bruins (29-26-4) have won all three meetings between the teams this season - each by one goal - including the last two in overtime and a shootout.
They have taken seven of the last eight overall matchups and enter Friday's game playing some of their best hockey of the season. Boston shut out the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-0 on Tuesday for their seventh win in the last nine games. Stanislav Chistov, P.J. Axelsson and Jason York all scored for the Bruins, who were outshot 44-21.
They are now looking to match their season-high four-game winning streak set Nov. 11-18. Despite being last in the Northeast Division with 62 points, Boston is just seven points behind eighth-place Carolina in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Goaltender Tim Thomas hopes the Bruins' recent success will help keep the squad intact.
"Nobody wants to see anybody get traded," said Thomas, who made 44 saves Tuesday for his third shutout of the season. "Every team ends up being a family. Our job is to do the best we can in the locker room. We can't control what management does."
The Bruins, who have not swept a season series from the Lightning since the 1996-97 season, are 3-1 on their current six-game road trip and have won five of their last six away from home following a seven-game skid. They'll face a Tampa Bay squad that has won five in a row at St. Pete Times Forum and is opening a three-game stretch there.
Goaltender March Denis made 24 saves Thursday, but Johan Holmqvist could get the nod versus Boston as the Lightning play on consecutive nights. The Bruins may again be without two of their three leading scorers as Glen Murray (strained groin) and Patrice Bergeron (lower-body injury) missed Tuesday's win.