It is ironic that it took a little bit of history for the Tampa Bay Lightning to actually make history against the Boston Bruins.
Tampa Bay earned its 500th franchise victory behind a team-record 47 saves from Antero Niittymaki and got two goals in each of the first two periods as it concluded the season series with a 5-3 win on Thursday at TD Garden.
“It was a hard-fought win, but Niitty played unbelievable for us,” head coach Rick Tocchet said.
Tampa Bay stands just six points behind Boston in playoff positioning with 72 points. The Bruins, meanwhile, dropped to 3-9-3 at home in 2010, and prior to winning two of the last four at TD Garden, had not won on home ice since Jan. 1.
Stamkos didn’t waste any time putting Tampa Bay up when he tipped in Steve Downie’s pass from the blue line past Tuukka Rask just 49 seconds into the opening period.
“It was a great play by Downs [Steve Downie]. I just tried to stay onsides and go to the net. I knew he saw me and he put the puck on the tape, I just had to make sure I put enough wood on it to put it in the net,” Stamkos said.
Downie, along with Kurtis Foster and David Hale, was one of three Lightning players who exited the contest early due to injury and did not return.
Tampa Bay faced 50 shots against, marking a franchise high, which broke the previous mark of 49 set on Feb. 17, 2009 against Chicago.
Johnny Boychuk and Mark Recchi had goals for Boston, who remains in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
A pair of Boston mistakes led to two Tampa Bay goals, albeit interrupted by Zdeno Chara’s sixth of the year at 19:33 to cut a 2-0 disadvantage in half.
As the Bruins got caught in a line change, Vincent Lecavalier corralled a loose puck along the side boards and faked a slap shot from the left circle, instead passing it through the low slot to St. Louis who banged home the puck to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead going into the first intermission.
Szczechura then padded the advantage at 6:50 in the second after stepping in front of an errant pass from behind Boston’s own net.
“It’s nice to contribute offensively,” Szczechura said. “I was reading off the forecheck and it wasn’t much of a shot, but it went in and I guess they all count, right?”
Boychuk converted just four minutes later to make it 3-2 at 10:42.
Stamkos regained the two-goal lead on the power play, while moving into a first place tie with Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for the NHL goal scoring lead with his 45th of the season.
The momentum continued, as Szczechura capped a two-goal night with a goal coming with the man advantage that made the score 5-2 at 3:00, before Mark Recchi added Boston’s third and final goal.
“We played pretty well,” Szczechura added. “We knew they were a good team and that it was playoff type atmosphere out there. We just played our game.”
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