The Boston Bruins haven’t had much trouble playing away from their home ice this season. They hope that trend continues as they conclude their five-game road trip Saturday night against the slumping Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Bruins (31-23-6) have won seven of their last nine road games to improve to 17-11-3 away from Boston. They have gone 3-0-1 on this road swing behind a pair of consecutive shootout wins, including Thursday’s 5-4 victory at Florida.
Marco Sturm scored the only goal of the shootout, helping the Bruins move closer to reaching the postseason for the first time since 2003-04. The veteran left wing also had a goal and two assists in regulation for the Bruins, who are tied with Buffalo and the New York Rangers for sixth in the Eastern Conference.
Sturm, who leads the Bruins with 20 goals and is second with 42 points, has a goal and four assists during a three-game point streak.
Tim Thomas was pulled after giving up four goals on 12 shots in the first two periods. Alex Auld relieved Thomas and stopped all 15 shots he faced and all three shootout attempts. Auld could get the start in place of Thomas, who is 2-3-1 with a 3.53 goals-against average in his last seven games.
“There’s no doubt Timmy wasn’t at his best (Thursday),” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “When goaltenders have a bad night, you’ve got to rely on the other guy and Auld (came through) and he ends up getting a win out of this.”
Thomas has started both of this season’s games against Tampa Bay (25-29-7), and is 4-2-0 with a 3.02 GAA in six career games against the Lightning.
Center Marc Savard, who leads the NHL with 54 assists, contributed two on Thursday and has a goal and five assists during a three-game point streak. Savard has been key to the Bruins’ road success, notching 45 of his team-leading 68 points in 30 away games.
Savard also has eight goals and 31 points in 32 games versus Tampa Bay, which has split the season series with Boston. Each team has won on home ice, with the Lightning posting a 4-1 win in Tampa Bay on Dec. 1.
Boston, though, is 9-2-0 against the Lightning since March 20, 2004, and has won four of the last five in Tampa Bay.
The Lightning, who begin a three-game homestand, have lost four of their last six contests at St. Pete Times Forum. They will try to bounce back from their third straight loss, 1-0 to the New York Islanders on Thursday.
Tampa Bay is last in the East with 57 points, better than only league-worst Los Angeles (55). The Lightning have not lost four straight since dropping seven in a row from Dec. 22-Jan. 5.
“We just have to keep fighting and keep trying,” defenseman Dan Boyle said. “A loss is frustrating, no matter which way it happens. It’s a crucial two points lost.”
Vincent Lecavalier had six shots Thursday, including one that rang off the post, as his seven-game point streak was snapped. He had a goal and eight assists in that stretch.
Lecavalier has 16 goals and 39 points in 34 career games against the Bruins.