Sports

Bolts aim for rare win over sliding Bruins

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Tampa Bay Lightning will try for their first win against the Boston Bruins in three years when the Atlantic Division rivals meet Sunday in Central Florida.

The Lightning enter this test with an 11-point lead over fourth-place Boston for second in the division, but the club has not fared well in this matchup recently. The Bruins have won 10 straight over Tampa since the Bolts won a 6-1 home decision on March 13, 2012.

Boston has claimed 14 of 16 overall in this series and three straight in Tampa.

The Bruins, however, enter Sunday on a four-game losing streak (0-2-2) which comes on the heels of a 7-0-1 stretch. Boston is three behind Detroit for third place in the division and is only a point ahead of idle Ottawa, which won its sixth straight game on Saturday, for the last wild card spot in the East. The Senators hold a game in hand over Boston and are off on Sunday.

The Bolts have played well this month and own a 6-1-1 record over their last eight trips to the ice. The club has picked up wins in two straight, beating Atlantic-leading Montreal on Monday before downing Detroit, 3-1, in Friday's third test of a six-game homestand.

Tampa tied Montreal for first place with the recent 4-2 win, but the Canadiens enter Sunday four points ahead of the Lightning. The Bolts do hold a game in hand over Montreal, which is idle on Sunday. Tampa also is eight points ahead of third-place Detroit, which hosts St. Louis this afternoon.

Detroit was tied 1-1 with the Lightning after 40 minutes on Friday, but Alex Killorn delivered the game-winning goal for the hosts with 9:29 remaining in the third period. Steven Stamkos added an empty-netter in the closing minute to seal the victory.

Stamkos has reached the 40-goal mark for the fourth time in his career. The last time was in 2011-12 when the centerman led the NHL with 60. Stamkos is second in goals this season to Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who has 47 markers.

Anton Stralman also scored on Friday, while Ben Bishop posted 30 stops for the win. Tampa forward Ondrej Palat returned to play after a three-game absence due to a foot injury and contributed two assists to the victory.

"I thought the guys got stronger as the night went on," said Bishop. "This was a big two points for us tonight because these guys are chasing us and we needed the win."

Tampa improved upon its best ever home season with the win and is now 28-7-1 as the host. The Bolts will cap this homestand with tests against Florida and Nashville.

After losing an important 6-4 decision in Ottawa on Thursday at the start of a three-game road trip, Boston fell Saturday to Florida in a shootout. The 2-1 decision moved the Panthers just four points behind the Bruins for the conference's last playoff spot.

Florida scored in the first period before the Bruins evened things with Patrice Bergeron's power-play tally less than three minutes into the second period. The score remained 1-1 through overtime, but Brandon Pirri delivered the extra point for the Panthers by scoring the lone goal of the shootout.

Tuukka Rask made 24 saves in the loss. Pirri beat Rask in the second round of the tiebreaker, making a series of stick fakes before slipping the puck past the out-of-position goaltender.

"Shootouts are huge, but finding a way in the first 60 or 65 minutes is even more important," Bergeron noted.

It's unclear if Rask will start on consecutive days or if backup Niklas Svedberg will get the call in net.

The Bruins could get centerman David Krejci back Sunday. The centerman has been sidelined since Feb. 20 with a partially torn ligament in his left knee, but he has been practicing with the team. Krejci missed his 14th straight game on Saturday.

Boston fell to 15-14-6 as the guest with Saturday's loss. After today's game, the B's won't play again until hosting Anaheim on Thursday.