The Boston Bruins are hoping their most successful road trip in 39 years will lead to better results at home.
The Bruins have usually been at their best when facing the Tampa Bay Lightning there and will try to add to that dominance Thursday night.
Boston (37-19-7) had dropped four of five before heading out for a season-high six consecutive road games Feb. 17. A 1-0 victory over Ottawa on Tuesday gave the Bruins their first sweep of a six-game trip since Feb. 17-26, 1972, a season that ended with their most recent Stanley Cup title.
Boston is on its longest overall win streak in nearly two years thanks in large part to its league-best defense. The Bruins, allowing 2.27 goals per game this season, have outscored opponents 20-9 during their run.
Tuukka Rask(notes) earned four wins on that trip, including his second shutout of the season Tuesday, and Tim Thomas(notes) allowed one goal in each of his two starts. The Bruins haven’t won seven in a row since a 10-game run Dec. 12, 2008-Jan. 1, 2009.
The Northeast Division leaders have lost three of four at the TD Garden heading into a two-game stay there. They’ll start that stretch against another first-place club that’s also played well on defense lately.
The Southeast Division-leading Lightning have outscored opponents 15-9 over the last five games, but had a three-game win streak snapped Wednesday with a 2-1 defeat in New Jersey.
“We won a patience game back home and lost one here,” coach Guy Boucher said. “It was who was going to make the last mistake and we did.”
The Lightning have maintained their division lead by going 11-4-2 over their last 18 games. Heading to Boston doesn’t seem like the best way for the Lightning to add another victory as they’re 4-21-3 with six ties all-time there.
Thomas has a 1.84 GAA over that stretch and is 9-4-0 with a 2.37 GAA against the Lightning. Rask, meanwhile, is 1-2-0 with a 4.06 GAA in three matchups.
If Tampa Bay veteran Dwayne Roloson(notes) starts for the second straight night, it might be a low-scoring affair. He’s 5-2-2 with a 1.97 GAA in nine starts against the Bruins but hasn’t faced them this season. Mike Smith(notes) is 2-4-0 with a 3.01 GAA in his last six matchups with Boston and was pulled from the December loss.
Whoever starts might get help from Stamkos, who has four goals and four assists in his last five games against Boston. The NHL’s goal scoring leader, though, has one goal in his last eight contests but will try to help his team split its four games with the Bruins this season.
Ryder has five goals and four assists during a five-game point streak against Tampa Bay.