The Bruins haven’t been playing much lately (they’ve had just three games in the past nine days) but they looked as sharp as ever Thursday night, a 4-2 victory at Tampa Bay’s Times Forum.
Boston (10-2-2) won its second straight road game thanks to two goals by Nathan Horton and multiple points from Patrice Bergeron (1 goal, 1 assist), Brad Marchand (1 goal, 1 assist) and Dougie Hamilton (2 assists), not to mention 24 saves by Tuukka Rask (8-1-2).
The Lightning (8-7-1) rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to tie it at two in the second period but Marchand scored the game-winner later that frame and Horton added an insurance goal-his 23rd career two-goal game for him-in the third period. Boston solved its power play woes simply by not having one while their excellent penalty kill continued, holding Tampa Bay’s dangerous power play to 0-for-3 on the man advantage. Lack of a true number one goaltender continues to plague the Lightning unless Anders Lindback (7-4-1) is the answer (unlikely).
The B’s got off to their best start of the season as they led 2-0 after only 3:50. Horton got his first goal at 1:11 after a rebound came to him then Bergeron doubled the lead after great work by Marchand behind Tampa Bay’s goal.
Steven Stamkos’ top shelf missile got the Lightning on the board at 8:13 of the first period. Cory Conacher - a wannabe Marchand - tied it on a two-on-one at 9:00 but less than five minutes later, Marchand scored his team-leading ninth goal of the season. A good bounce came to him and he made the most of it. Horton tipped in Zdeno Chara’s slap pass from the point at 2:33 of the third period to give the B's another two-goal lead, which this time they didn’t squander.
Boston will go for the snowbird sweep of Florida as they meet the Panthers (5-7-4) on Sunday (3 p.m., NESN). If it’s anything like this game vs. Tampa Bay, they can count on two things: a crowd made up mostly of transplanted Bruins fans and choppy ice conditions in the Florida heat. The Panthers won 5-2 in Philadelphia tonight but don’t let that fool you: they are a mess. Their goal-differential is an NHL-worst -18 on the season.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter:@RichSlate