The Bruins are on their longest winning streak since a 10-game stretch from Dec. 12, 2008-Jan 1, 2009. Boston's seventh straight victory was an important one, as it gave the club sole possession of the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
The B's entered Thursday's home tilt with Tampa tied for the second spot in the conference standings and Boston jumped past the Lightning with a 2-1 regulation win. With 83 points, the Bruins are three behind Philadelphia for the East's top spot and six ahead of Montreal for the Northeast Division lead.
Milan Lucic scored the go-ahead goal with 3:42 remaining in the third period to snap a 1-1 tie and lift Boston to the victory over Tampa.
Lucic's go-ahead tally came as Tampa goaltender Mike Smith and the Lightning fought to clear their crease of players. There were at least seven total bodies in front when Lucic, from a sharp angle below the left circle, whipped the puck in for his 28th goal of the season.
Steven Kampfer also scored for the Bruins, while Tim Thomas made 27 saves for the victory.
"I thought we played the game we keep talking about, a 60-minute effort. It was a tight game, but when you look back it could have been a different outcome," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien.
The Bruins will be without Patrice Bergeron today, as the centerman will be out of town tending to a personal matter. Kampfer is also expected to miss tonight's test with what is being deemed a mild concussion.
Boston, which is capping a brief two-game homestand today, has lost three of its previous four home tilts before Thursday's big win over the Bolts. The Bruins are still a disappointing 16-12-3 on home ice this season.
This evening's tilt marks the close of the season series between the Bruins and Pens. Boston has taken two out of three encounters so far, but Pittsburgh recorded a 3-2 road victory the last time the clubs met on Jan. 15.
The Penguins have taken five of eight overall in the series and also have five victories in their last eight trips to Boston.
Pittsburgh has lost its last two games in overtime and is coming off Friday's setback in New Jersey. Ilya Kovalchuk's power-play goal with 25 seconds left in the extra session lifted New Jersey to a 2-1 decision over the Penguins at Prudential Center.
The game-winner was made possible when Pittsburgh defenseman Zbynek Michalek was called for a questionable hook at 2:46 of the extra session. Patrik Elias missed his initial chance from the right side, but gathered the puck, skated behind the Penguins net and dished back for Kovalchuk, whose laser-like one- timer hit the back of the net from the left circle.
Tyler Kennedy notched the lone score for the Penguins, who dropped their sixth game in seven outings (1-2-4).Brent Johnson was the hard-luck loser with 28 saves.
"It's tough (to lose) because it was back-and-forth. Both teams played well offensively and defensively and it's tough not to come out on top," said Johnson.
Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start tonight's game for Pittsburgh. He has a 6-4-2 record and a 2.27 goals-against average in his career against Boston. Thomas is 7-4-3 with a 2.72 GAA in 14 lifetime games versus the Penguins.
The Penguins, who are without superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, could get Chris Kunitz back in the lineup tonight. The forward has missed the last 12 games with a lower-body injury, but has been participating in full practices and is questionable for this evening's test. Kunitz has 18 goals and 18 assists in 52 games this season.
Pittsburgh is completing a five-game road trip tonight and is 17-10-6 as the guest this season.