The Tampa Bay Lightning are in Boston to wrap up their season series with the Bruins at the Banknorth Garden tonight. Boston leads the season series 2-1-0 but Tampa Bay defeated the Bruins, 4-3, the last time the two clubs met, February 22nd in Tampa.
For the Lightning, each remaining game has meaning to the current roster players, as the management looks ahead to next season.
“I’m still looking for guys who want to compete,” interim head coach Rick Tocchet said. “When you get pushed around, you have to push back,” Tocchet said. “This is not going to happen next year. We’re going to make sure we play smart, tough hockey.”
One member of the Lightning who gives his all each night is forward Martin St. Louis, currently leading Tampa Bay in scoring with 77 points. St. Louis is also in a tie for the lead in goals scored with Vincent Lecavalier. Both skaters have 29 on the season. Lecavalier has had success when facing the Bruins in the past, netting four goals and seven points in his previous seven games against Boston.
In the Lightning victory on February 22nd, Vaclav Prospal collected the winning goal on a power play with only 93 seconds remaining in regulation time. Karri Ramo was in net for the Bolts and he got the win with 40 saves on 43 shots.
Also scoring in that game was Mark Recchi, but tonight, if Recchi is able to puck the puck in the net, it will be for his new club, the Bruins. Recchi joined Boston at the trade deadline and Tampa Bay acquired defenseman Matt Lashoff, who is averaging over 16 minutes of ice time a game while quarterbacking the power play. Lashoff has recorded a point in four of his seven games with the Lightning. Also trading sweaters in the deal was forward Martins Karsums, who has three assists for the Bolts.
It’s been a remarkable season for the Bruins, who return home from a brief road trip tonight riding a three-game win streak. Boston is currently sitting atop the Eastern Conference by seven points, with seven regular season games left to play.
All season, the Bruins have excelled, prompted by the outstanding goaltending of Tim Thomas. Thomas leads all NHL netminders in save percentage, with .931 and in goals against average with 2.13. Thomas has previously faced Tampa Bay twice this season, winning both games while allowing only four goals on 60 shots – a .933 save percentage.
Offensively, Marc Savard leads the Bruins with 80 points while Phil Kessel tops the goal scorers with 31. Zdeno Chara is tied for fourth among all NHL defensemen with 16 goals.
Following tonight’s contest, Tampa Bay continues on to New Jersey, to face the Devils on Friday night, before concluding the road trip against the Islanders on Saturday.