The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning meet for the third time this season Thursday night in what is shaping up to be a potential second-round matchup in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Bruins claimed victories in the first two contests between the Atlantic Division foes. Boston was victorious 5-3 on Nov. 21 in the first visit to Tampa -- Thursday night's match is the final one there -- and won again eight days later with a 3-1 decision at home.
All-Star forward David Pastrnak is a large reason for the Bruins' success, which reached history-making proportions Tuesday night against bitter rival Montreal.
Pastrnak earned his third point in the match by assisting on captain Patrice Bergeron's game-winning goal with less than three minutes remaining. The right winger then added an empty-net tally inside the final minute to cap Boston's 4-2 win and his four-point showing.
The win gave the Bruins an NHL-best 80 points in 47 games. They are the fastest club to reach the point total in league history, overtaking the 1943-44 Canadiens and 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers, who needed 49 games to reach 80.
"A lot of it is confidence. We keep winning, right? So, it's a big part of it," Pastrnak said. "But at the same time, we are all going every single night. All four lines are there for each other and they're all playing together and we're a tight group."
Another club that keeps winning is Tampa Bay, which improved to 18-4-1 at home Tuesday night with a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild.
Despite dropping the final two matches of their Western Conference road trip to the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, the Lightning rebounded with late goals from captain Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov to tame the Wild.
Before the game, Lightning executive vice president and general manager Julien BriseBois discussed his club and its makeup.
BriseBois has a history of making crucial additions to his squad at the trade deadline, which is March 3.
Last season, he traded for Chicago Blackhawks scoring winger Brandon Hagel and Ottawa Senators versatile center Nicholas Paul. Both forwards made an immediate impact as the team advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Colorado Avalanche.
BriseBois made similar moves previously to win Cups. He acquired gritty forwards Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow in February of 2020. Then in 2021, he brought in defenseman David Savard as a playoff rental.
"I can point to the standings ... and our roster with the quality players at key positions. And the fact that they've done it before and can do it again," BriseBois said on the Bally Sports Sun broadcast.
"When you look at all those ingredients, I think it's there for us to hopefully go on another magical run."
The Bruins have won five straight games against Tampa Bay. At 16-4-1 on the road, Boston will finish its pre-All-Star break schedule with back-to-back games at the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday and Sunday before playing at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
The Lightning's final game is Saturday when they host the Los Angeles Kings.
--Field Level Media