TAMPA, Fla. – The Boston Bruins are making a charge to claim the Eastern Conference’s top spot.
Reilly Smith scored the lone shootout goal in the seventh round to lead the Bruins past the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Saturday night.
Smith put an in-close shot between the pads of Ben Bishop. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask caught a break on Tampa Bay’s seventh shootout attempt when Richard Panik hit the post.
“Many times you get that gut feeling, and I said, ‘You know what, this is probably a good chance for Smitty to get himself going,'” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “I even told one of my assistant coaches, ‘It’s going to end here.'”
Smith has not scored a regulation goal in his last 11 games.
“It was good to be able to help the team get an extra point on that,” Smith said. “Personally, it may take a little bit off my shoulders, but hopefully I can get back to it next game.”
The Bruins, winners of four straight, got regulation goals from Daniel Paille, Carl Soderberg and Johnny Boychuk. Boston trails East-leading Pittsburgh by a point.
Ondrej Palat, Mark Barberio and Valtteri Filppula scored for the Lightning, who are 1-4-1 since the end of the Olympic break.
“We, at least, got a point out of this one, so it’s definitely a step,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “This is the best we’ve played since the break.”
The Bruins outshot Tampa Bay, which had the game’s first seven shots, 32-20.
Boston pulled even at 3 when Boychuk snapped a 20-game goal drought 8:11 into the third. The Bruins have outscored their opponents 78-43 during the third period this season.
Filppula put the Lightning ahead 3-2 from the slot at 9:31 of the second after the teams had each scored twice earlier in the period.
Palat ended Tampa Bay’s long scoring drought against the Bruins on a short-handed goal to make it 1-0 just 27 seconds into the second. The Lightning went 169:55 without scoring after Filppula, in the first of four games between the teams this season on Oct. 3, had a goal midway through the second in that game.
Boston had outscored Tampa Bay 11-1 in winning the previous three meetings.
After Barberio scored at 4:13 of the second, the Bruins had two goals in 1:31 by Paille (6:58) and Soderberg (8:29) to tie it at 2.
Paille beat Bishop with a backhander between his legs before Soderberg had a breakaway goal.
“Even though we fell behind 2-0, it was just small mistakes that ended up in the back of our net, but we seemed to find our rhythm after that,” Julien said.
Lightning star Steven Stamkos played in his second game since returning from a broken right shin, which occurred in a game at Boston on Nov. 11. The centre, who has no points through the two games, lost out on a breakaway chance in overtime when time ran out as he approached the Boston zone.
“I saw it coming, and I’m looking at the clock,” Cooper said. “It’s just one of those things.”
Stamkos played 21:46, had one shot and finished minus-2.
NOTES: The Bruins are 6-0-3 in their last nine road games, which is the longest point stretch since a nine-game run in 2010-11. … Boston RW Jarome Iginla played in his 1,295th NHL game, moving him past Pierre Turgeon into sole possession of 56th place on the career list. … Chicago senior adviser Scotty Bowman has resumed scouting games after having right knee replacement surgery on Jan. 24. The 13-time Stanley Cup winner is a regular at Lightning home games. … Tampa Bay RW Ryan Callahan, acquired from the New York Rangers on Wednesday for Martin St. Louis, assisted on Barberio’s goal for his first point with the Lightning.