TAMPA — A rematch of the 2011 Eastern Conference Final had a bit of a playoff feel between Boston and Tampa Bay.
But just like that seven-game playoff series two years ago, Boston came out on top as Nathan Horton scored twice to lead the Bruins to a 4-2 victory in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,204 at The Forum on Thursday.
Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand added a goal and an assist apiece while Tuukka Rask made 24 saves to pick up the victory. Teddy Purcell had a pair of assists while Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist for Tampa Bay. Rookie Cory Conacher also scored for the Lightning.
Tampa Bay had its two-game winning streak snapped while Boston (10-2-2) improved to 10-0 this season against teams other than Buffalo or the New York Rangers.
“We had a good start and I think that is what carried us through the game,” Horton said.
The Bruins good start came courtesy of two goals before the game was four minutes old. Horton found a rebound of a Dougie Hamilton shot just 1:11into the game and that was followed up with a goal from Patrice Bergeron 2:39 later, taking a Marchand feed from behind the net for a 2-0 lead just 3:50 into the game.
“Spotting teams a couple of goal leads, especially a team like Boston, it’s going to be an uphill battle to come back and win the game,” Stamkos said.
But Tampa Bay did find a way to come back starting when Stamkos cut the deficit in half at 8:13 of the first period, cutting down the slot to take a pass from Teddy Purcell and snapping off a wrist shot for his 11th goal of the season.
Conacher then pulled Tampa Bay even snapping an eight-game goal-scoring skid, firing off a wrist shot from the left circle for his sixth of the season at the 9:00 mark.
“At 2-2, I thought we played great, we came out really strong in the second period, we were surging and we get that goal,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said.
But the game didn’t stay tied nearly long enough for Tampa Bay to assert themselves further as nearly five minutes after Conacher tied the game, Matt Carle blocked a Tyler Seguin shot, but the puck caromed right to Marchand in the slot as the Bruins regained the lead at 13:58 of the second period.
After Boston killed off a carry-over penalty into the third, Horton finished off the game redirecting a Zdeno Chara shot-pass 2:33 into the final period to cap the scoring.
“Our penalty killers, all year, they go out there and get the job done, they really help us and give us momentum,” Horton said.
NOTES: Boston played the middle game of a season-long five-game road trip. … Lightning D Keith Aulie missed the game due to illness. … The Bruins have killed off 29-of-30 power plays against on the road this season after going 3-for-3 against the Lightning. … Tampa Bay has sold out all nine home games this season. … Injured Tampa Bay LW Ryan Malone (lower body) has begun light skating on his own and is “getting close” to returning to skating with the team, according to head coach Guy Boucher. … The first scheduled meeting between the teams in Boston was cancelled on Feb. 9 due to blizzard conditions and will be made up in Boston on April 25. … Tampa Bay D Keith Aulie missed the game due to flu-like symptoms. … Recently signed LW Jay Pandolfo was a healthy scratch for the Bruins. … Bruins RW Nathan Horton has 26 career goals against the Lightning, 10 more than against any other opponent. … Tampa Bay C Steven Stamkos has goals in three consecutive games since enduring a five-game goal scoring drought.