The Boston Bruins are in the midst of playing seven straight games against some of the NHL’s elite clubs.
Tuesday’s visit from Tampa Bay will be the fourth of a seven-game run during which Boston comes up against the past two Stanley Cup champions, the Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche; the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners, the Florida Panthers; and the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights.
With the second-highest point total in the NHL, the Bruins have earned their place within that group, but it comes with a challenge.
“We should always expect that we’re gonna get a team’s best,” Boston forward Nick Foligno said. “I think that’s a nice feeling and something that this group has worked hard for long before I got here. We want to continue that.”
The Bruins, who are 10-2-0 in November, began the two-week gauntlet with a 5-3 win at Tampa Bay on Nov. 21.
Lightning star Steven Stamkos enters play Tuesday with 998 career points. He had two goals, including the overtime winner, and an assist on Monday in Tampa Bay’s 6-5 road win over the Buffalo Sabres.
Boston’s most recent game was a 3-2 overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, just two days after the team’s most lopsided loss of the campaign, a 5-2 defeat at Florida.
David Pastrnak scored the deciding goal on Friday — his fifth tally in four games — after David Krejci scored twice while the Bruins overcame a 2-0 deficit. Pastrnak has a nine-game point streak (six goals, seven assists) while Krejci has a five-game point streak (six goals, two assists).
During the challenging stretch, first-year coach Jim Montgomery’s group is identifying ways to improve.
“The offensive part of our game still needs to grow in the sense of wanting to wear people down, so that would be eliminating turnovers and making good decisions,” Montgomery said.
The Bruins expect to have both goaltenders available after Linus Ullmark exited the Friday game with an upper-body injury. Jeremy Swayman won in relief against Carolina.
Forward Trent Frederic (undisclosed) and defenseman Derek Forbort (finger) are also trending positively in their respective recoveries.
“Ullmark is good to play or for backup duty,” Montgomery said. “We will re-evaluate (Frederic) and Forbort again (on Tuesday morning), but it seems like Frederic for sure will be an option to play.”
The Tuesday contest will be the second game of Boston’s four-game homestand, while Tampa Bay is finishing a back-to-back set as part of an overall three-game road trip.
The Lightning have won two straight and six of their past seven while averaging 4.6 goals per game. At Buffalo, Tampa Bay scored the final two goals in regulation to erase a 5-3 deficit with less than six minutes remaining, then prevailed in overtime.
“It’s not the type of hockey we want to play, and you’re not going to get away in this league doing what we did (Monday),” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Some big-time players got us back into it. … If we continue playing like that on the road trip, it’s going to be tough sledding.”
Stamkos scored his franchise-record 13th career overtime goal to cap the team’s closing run.
Brayden Point recorded his second straight and 22nd career multi-goal game. He has netted the opening goal in back-to-back contests.
“It was a game where we probably didn’t deserve the two points, but we’ve had some go the other way where we thought we did,” Stamkos said. “No quit. Relied on special teams to get us going. … Sometimes when you pull out a game like this, you get some confidence going into the next one.”
The Lightning scored a season-high three power-play goals on Monday and now have 23 this season, putting them one shy of the Bruins’ league-leading total.
Tampa Bay defenseman Nick Perbix returned after missing three games with a lower-body ailment.
–Field Level Media