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Mar 27, 2024 3:10 am

Fresh from winning trip, Lightning face Atlantic-leading Bruins

tampa bay lightning, anaheim

After a successful five-game road trip, mostly in California, the Tampa Bay Lightning return to Florida for a three-game homestand against a top playoff team and two teams they are battling with in the Eastern Conference wild-card race.

First up is a heavyweight matchup on Wednesday against the Boston Bruins, who sit atop the Atlantic Division standings by two points over the Florida Panthers.

Possessing a season-high seven-game point streak (6-0-1), the Lightning (39-25-7, 85 points) were 4-0-1 on their road trip that began with a 5-3 victory in Sunrise, Fla., over the Florida Panthers. Tampa Bay then traveled across the country for a game in Nevada and four in the Golden State.

Coach Jon Cooper’s group was outstanding in the heightened moments, even when it needed overtime against the lowly Anaheim Ducks to close the trip with a 3-2 win on Sunday.

Anthony Cirelli took advantage of a dreadful no-look pass by Anaheim’s Mason McTavish, easily intercepting the feed and pivoting to start a two-on-zero rush with Brandon Hagel.

Cirelli put away the game with a perfect give-and-go as the Lightning won 3-2 and ended the West Coast portion of the road trip 3-0-1, including victories over the Ducks and the San Jose Sharks, two of the three worst teams in the NHL.

Cooper believes his club should not pay attention to the win-loss record of the competition.

“This is the National Hockey League,” Cooper said after the Lightning improved to 11-3-2 against Pacific Division opposition. “There’s not a ton of difference between most of these teams in the league. Everyone’s got stars or future stars on their teams. (The Ducks) have some ballplayers over there.

“Listen, just don’t look at the points. These teams are trying to win, and you’re going to see games like this. … The second you start looking at a team where they are in the standings, you’re going to be outside the standings as well.”

As the regular-season schedule nears its end, Boston coach Jim Montgomery is noticing a change in play from his club, away from the regular season’s free-flowing pace to the grinding, physical play that characterizes the postseason.

In Sunrise against the division rival Florida Panthers on Tuesday, Montgomery saw much of the latter style in the Bruins’ 4-3 win. Boston (42-16-15, 99 points) broke a two-game losing streak.

After allowing Florida a goal by Evan Rodrigues just 27 seconds in, the Bruins held the home side without a shot on goal for 13 minutes and took the lead with two tallies in the final three minutes of the first period.

The Bruins fell behind 3-2 midway through the third period but rallied, getting a tying goal from Trent Frederic on a power play at 15:38 and the game-winner from Pavel Zacha at 17:39.

“I love the way we stuck together out there,” Montgomery said after his club regained the top spot in the Atlantic Division. “It was a playoff atmosphere.”

Zacha, Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak produced a goal and an assist apiece.

Pastrnak’s two points gave him 101 — his second straight campaign eclipsing the century mark.

Boston’s Brad Marchand failed to find the net for the seventh straight match, leaving the high-scoring winger with just one goal in his past 16 outings.

Boston goaltender Jeremy Swayman made 18 saves, withstanding a Florida barrage in the final 30 seconds to improve to 7-2-1 in his past 10 decisions.

The Bruins regularly rotate Swayman with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark, who is likely to be in net on Wednesday.

After the Bruins’ visit, the Lightning will host the New York Islanders on Saturday and the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

Boston is 1-1-0 to start a six-game road trip.

–Field Level Media

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