Boston Bruins at Tampa Bay Lightning
When and Where: Thursday, Dec. 6, Amalie Arena, St. Petersburg, Fla., 7:35 p.m. EST.
Two teams trending in opposite directions collide Thursday night when the foundering Boston Bruins try to salvage a split of their two games in Florida against the surging Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bruins seeking spark after lopsided loss
Boston (14-9-4) have dropped three of its last four games following a 5-0 whitewashing by Florida on Tuesday night, its most lopsided defeat since opening the season with a 7-0 thrashing at defending Stanley Cup champion Washington.
The Bruins came undone late in the second period, allowing three goals in a 6:42 span that capped a four-goal outburst by the Panthers. A lack of offense has plagued Boston of late — the Bruins have scored two or fewer goals in eight of their last 10 games and failed to pot more than three in that span.
One reason for the lack of goals is a dip in production on the power play. While the Bruins have an overall conversion rate of 27.6 percent (24 for 87), they have tallied just four times in 24 chances over their last nine games.
David Pastrnak has a team-leading 19 goals — tied for fifth in the league — but his only two over the last nine games came in their loss to Toronto on Nov. 26. He had two goals and two assists in four matchups versus the Lightning last season and has 10 goals and three assists in 15 career games against Tampa Bay.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is turning to Tuukka Rask after Jaroslav Halak let up five goals on 44 shots. Rask’s last start came in a 4-2 loss to Detroit on Sunday and is 2-2-2 with a 2.92 goals-against average in six road starts this season.
He has won seven of his last nine starts against the Lightning but did lose the most recent one, a 4-0 road defeat April 3 in which he stopped 32 of 36 shots. Rask is 16-7-1 with five of his 41 career shutouts lifetime versus Tampa Bay
Lightning riding four-game win streak
Tampa Bay (21-7-1), which has an NHL-best 43 points, is back home after sweeping a three-game road swing while extending a torrid run offensively.
The Lightning have scored four or more goals in nine of their last 11 games and are coming off a 6-5 shootout victory at Detroit on Tuesday night. J.T. Miller and Cedric Paquette rallied Tampa Bay with goals 5:08 apart in the third period, with Paquette’s short-handed tally knotting the game at 5 with 5:02 to play.
After failing to convert on a power-play in the final 30-plus seconds of overtime, defenseman Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov beat Jimmy Howard in the shootout while Edward Pasquale stopped two of three attempts for Tampa Bay to win his NHL debut.
“I didn’t expect to give up five goals and get a win, but at the end of the day, this team has so much scoring power that you’ve just got to fight through,” Pasquale told the club’s official website. “It was one of those games a couple nice goals, a couple crappy ones, but I held in there and we got a win.”
Pasquale will give way to Luis Domingue, who continues to get the bulk of the work with Andrei Vasilevskiy sidelined with a broken foot. Domingue had started the previous 11 games before getting Tuesday off and had gone 8-3-0 with a 2.91 GAA in those contests.
Domingue is 5-1-0 at home with a 2.69 GAA at home, giving up two or more goals in all six games. He has lost both his career starts to the Bruins, absorbing a 6-2 loss early last season while playing with the Arizona Coyotes.
The Lightning already have five players with at least 10 goals, paced by Brayden Point‘s 20. He had a six-game point streak in the win over Detroit but has still totaled six goals and five assists in his last seven contests.
Point’s linemate Kucherov, who also went without a point but has team highs of 32 assists and 42 points, had a 10-game point streak come to an end after piling up five goals and 19 assists in those contests.
While its 5-on-5 defense has been inconsistent, Tampa Bay has tightened up on the penalty kill of late. The Lightning have killed off 17 of 19 penalties over the last seven games and have an overall success rate of 82.2 percent.
The Lightning are:
- 20-6 in their last 26 in the fourth game of a 4-in-6 situation.
- 4-1 in their last five games after scoring five or more goals in the previous game.
- 40-14 in their last 54 games vs. Eastern Conference teams.
- The over is 7-1 in their last eight games vs. Eastern Conference teams.
- The over is 19-7 in their last 26 in the third game of a 3-in-4 situation.
- The over is 4-0 in their last four games vs. Atlantic Division teams.
The Bruins are:
- 2-6 in their last eight road games.
- 1-4 in their last five road games.
- 1-4 in their last five road games vs. teams with an above-.600 home winning percentage.
- No trends of note.