Rangers aim to rebound against surging Bruins

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(SportsNetwork.com) - The Boston Bruins are finally heating up and it is an 18-year-old rookie leading the charge.

David Pastrnak and the Bruins try to match their longest winning streak of the season on Thursday night when they host a New York Rangers club that is looking to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time in over a month.

The Bruins had gone just 5-6-5 in 16 games since the start of December before a current four-game winning streak that began with a big win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 7 and was extended with Tuesday's 4-3 decision over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Pastrnak scored twice versus the Bolts for his second two-goal game in a row. He had just one assist in six games before scoring his first two career goals on Saturday in a 3-1 win over Philadelphia.

"I thought today was his best game," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien of Pastrnak, the 25th overall pick of the 2014 draft. "He's made unbelievable strides in half a year. He's making a case for himself (to remain in the NHL). On a game like tonight that's pretty exciting to watch a guy like that play, and not only play, but make a difference in our game."

Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic also tallied for the Bruins, who won a season- high five in a row from Oct. 30-Nov. 10. David Krejci and Torey Krug each posted a pair of assists while Tuukka Rask contributed 16 saves to the victory.

The Bruins face another big challenge tonight in the Rangers, who had won five straight and 13 of 14 before a 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

The Isles outshot the Blueshirts 44-27, with Henrik Lundqvist making 29 saves on 32 shots before being replaced by Cam Talbot at the start of the third period. Talbot halted all 12 shots he faced in relief.

The Rangers were coming off a three-game sweep of a trip through California and begin another three-game swing tonight. They'll visit the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

"We were the slower team, which we haven't been in this last stretch," Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "We know what makes us successful and we just weren't doing it tonight. They were definitely making us look pretty slow out there."

Center Derek Stepan left Tuesday's loss early with an upper-body injury and is day-to-day, though unlikely to play tonight. He ranks second on the club with 21 assists and fourth with 27 points despite being limited to 28 games on the season due to injury.

With the Rangers also in action on Friday, Talbot was already slated to start this game and he'll face the Bruins for the first time.

Rask is 6-3-3 with a 2.07 goals against average and .932 save percentage in 12 career meetings with the Rangers. He started all three games versus them last season when Boston swept the season series by a combined 11-6 margin.

The Bruins and Rangers are tied for the two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference with 52 points each, though New York has played four fewer games.