BOSTON (AP) — Steve Stamkos scored twice, tying him for the NHL lead with 45 goals, and Paul Szczechura also had a pair of goals to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-3 victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
Antero Niittymaki stopped 47 shots for the 500th victory in Tampa Bay franchise history. The Lightning have won two straight since losing five straight — and 12 of 14 — to fall to the brink of elimination in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Nittymaki stopped 19 shots in the third period as Boston tried furiously but belatedly to come back from a three-goal deficit.
Tuukka Rask made 13 saves for Boston, which dropped to 15-15-6 at home, winning just two of its last 14 home games. Since the Winter Classic at Fenway Park, the Bruins had not scored three regulation goals at home before Thursday.
Stamkos scored just 49 seconds into the game and then added another with 26 seconds remaining in the second period to make it 4-2 and give him 45 for the season. That ties Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead.
The Bruins pulled Rask on a power play in the final minute for a 6-on-4 advantage but couldn’t get off a shot.
Szczechura scored his fourth of the season in the second period and his fifth in the third. Martin St. Louis also scored for the Lightning, who opened the night in 12th place but closed within six points of eighth-place Boston with eight games left.
Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk and Mark Recchi scored for Boston, which had a two-point lead over ninth-place Atlanta, a 2-1 overtime loser to Toronto on Thursday night. It was Chara’s first goal in 16 games, and it cut the deficit to 2-1 with 27 seconds left in the first period
But the Lightning capitalized on another turnover in the Boston end when Szczechura got the puck between the circles and put it past Rask to make it 3-1 at the 6:50 mark of the second. Boychuk made it a one-goal game midway through the second, but Stamkos scored on a slapshot to extend the lead again.
David Krejci had a pair of assists for the Bruins, giving him four two-point performances in the last eight games and 101 assists in his career.
Shawn Thornton had a questionable hit against Kurtis Foster in the second period. Foster, who went face-first into the glass, was looked at by the trainer, but he skated off on his own. No penalty was called.
Thursday was the first day of the NHL’s new rule banning blindside hits to the head, so Thornton could be sanctioned by the league.
Chara left 2 minutes into the third period when he was hit by St. Louis’ slapshot in the right hand. He left and went to the bench, where he sat with an icepack on his hand before returning with 16:32 left.
NOTES: Boston’s Vladimir Sobotka missed the game with a head injury. … Lightning defenseman David Hale left the game in the second period with an undisclosed injury and did not return. … The Bruins have no power-play goals in their last eight games.