Published April 25, 2013
| Sports Network
The struggling Boston Bruins will try to regroup and move closer to a third straight Northeast Division title when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Thursday's game at TD Garden.
The Bruins have already clinched a playoff spot, but that fact is not a testament to the club's recent play, as Boston has dropped five of its last six games, including Tuesday's 5-2 setback in Philadelphia.
Still, the Bruins enter Thursday tied with Montreal atop the Northeast standings and they have three games left in the regular season compared to two for the Canadiens, who play tonight in Winnipeg. The division winner is assured of the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Boston was dealt a lopsided loss by the Flyers on Tuesday, as Steve Mason turned away 39 shots to help Philly record the 5-2 win. Wade Redden and David Krejci both scored for the Bruins, while Anton Khudobin gave up three goals on 17 shots before being pulled in the second period. Tuukka Rask finished the game in net and gave up two goals on 13 shots.
"It was definitely a step back in our game," said Boston head coach Claude Julien. "Really poor puck management tonight and door decision making. That to me is a reflection of guys not being ready to play. They need to take the accountability of being ready."
Boston is playing two of its final three regular-season games on home ice, where the club is 15-4-3 this season. Next up for the Bruins is Saturday's road test against Washington and they'll follow that with a home test the following day against Ottawa. Sunday's game was originally scheduled for April 15, but was postponed due to the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
The Bruins have taken three straight and seven of the last nine meetings with the Lightning. Tampa has lost five in a row in Beantown in the regular season and last won at TD Garden on March 25, 2010.
The Lightning will miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six years, but the club was able to halt a six-game losing streak in Wednesday's 5-2 rout of the postseason-bound Toronto Maple Leafs. Radko Gudas scored the difference-maker early in the third period and Martin St Louis had a hat trick as Tampa Bay slammed the visiting Maple Leafs.
Steven Stamkos scored one goal and had an assist, while Nate Thompson had two assists for the Lightning. Ben Bishop stopped 26-of-28 shots faced in the victory.
St Louis, who has recorded seven career three-goal games, also took over the NHL's scoring race with 58 points -- two more than the injured Sidney Crosby and his Tampa teammate Stamkos.
"Honestly, I just try to play the right way, finish the year strong and see where it takes me," St. Louis said.
With 29 goals, Stamkos is also two behind Washington's Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead.
The Lightning are playing their final road game of the season on Thursday and are just 6-15-2 as the visiting team in 2013.
Tampa Bay will complete its schedule in Saturday's home test against Florida.