Steve Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning own the Eastern Conference's best record, but solving the Boston Bruins has proven to be a challenge they've failed to solve of late.
The Lightning have suffered six straight regulation losses to the Bruins, including two in October this year heading into Monday's matinee in Boston.
Tampa Bay (12-4-0) has a won a season-high four straight as it starts a back-to-back set that includes Tuesday's visit to Montreal. The Lightning have been led all season by the red-hot Stamkos, who has 13 points during an eight-game run and 23 overall to rank among the league's best.
It's not surprising, however, that two of Stamkos' three pointless efforts this season have come against Boston (10-5-1), with Tampa Bay losing by a combined 8-1. Stamkos called his team's performance "embarrassing" after a 5-0 defeat in the last meeting Oct. 19.
The Lightning are 0 for 9 in the power play in those matchups and have allowed two short-handed goals by the Bruins, who are 0 for 7 with the man advantage.
Boston has killed off all 17 penalties in its last five games, a 3-1-1 stretch capped by Saturday's 3-1 home victory over Toronto. Tuukka Rask made 33 saves and lowered his goals-against average to 1.63.
"The penalty kill has been improving a lot in these past couple games and that's our bread and butter," Rask said. "We need to be a good team on the PK and we've done that in the past."
Rask has a 0.75 GAA in winning his last four starts against Tampa Bay.
Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron each scored power-play goals Saturday, with Bergeron's tally snapping a third-period tie.
"I felt our special teams were obviously the difference tonight," coach Claude Julien told the Bruins' official website. "Penalty kill was extremely good; winning battles and getting pucks down the other end and even when they had the possession in our own end we were always in the shooting lane, didn't give them much there."
Although the top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla was held to one assist Saturday, the newcomer among that group likes what he is seeing from a trio that has produced 38 points.
"I think we're starting to read off of each other and we're starting to get some real chemistry," Iginla said. "So it's been, fun, I've really enjoyed playing with them."
The Lightning won 3-2 at Detroit on Saturday on Teddy Purcell's goal in overtime.
"It felt great to get the game-winner," said Purcell after ending a nine-game goal drought. "It felt like every game I was getting two or three looks, but couldn't buy one. Anytime you're in a slump like that it's great to break out, especially when you get your team two big points."
Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid left Saturday's game after he went down grabbing his right hip area and did not practice Sunday.
The Associated Press News Service
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