TAMPA — A call by coach Rick Tocchet for more muscle and a sustained fire seemed to ring in the Lightning players' ears.
At stake Monday against the Bruins was an opportunity for the Lightning to climb to .500, a mental hurdle that, if overcome, could help wins begin to snowball.
The response was arguably one of the Lightning's best efforts of the season despite a nail-biting third period it survived to hang on for the 2-1 win.
Tampa Bay won just its second in six games against the Bruins and the fourth in its past five games overall.
"We just beat a pretty good hockey team," goalie Mike Smith said. "We're fighting for our lives to get into the playoffs. Every game is big for us, especially ones in our conference."
Alex Tanguay scored his second goal in as many games in the first, and Marty St. Louis tied for the league lead for power-play points with a second-period goal. Just as impressive was Tampa Bay's 24 second-period shots, one shy of its season high, against New Jersey in October.
But Boston's play in the final 10 minutes, with Tampa Bay up 2-0, nearly cost the Lightning (15-15-9) a game it needed to win.
The Bruins (19-12-7) continued to dig and made it 2-1 with 7:30 left on a goal by Marco Sturm. He almost tied it with three minutes left, firing a shot from the point past Smith off the left post.
Boston got a power play with 1:27 left after Ryan Malone was called for holding, giving it a 6-on-4 advantage with goalie Tim Thomas pulled before Mark Recchi took a slashing penalty with 34 seconds left.
"Everything that could happen in the last five minutes did," Tocchet said. "We're pretty resilient."
Tampa Bay was backed by Smith's solid play. Smith made 31 saves for his eighth win of the year; he is one shy of career victory No. 50.
The St. Pete Times Forum's announced crowd of 16,926 saw Tampa Bay break its recent hex of allowing the opening goals in its previous seven games.
Tanguay gave the Lightning a 1-0 first-period lead on a play that began with a heads-up play by Kurtis Foster, who flung a bouncing puck at Thomas (37 saves).
With Thomas unable to grab it, the puck bounced to Vinny Lecavalier, who made a perfect backward pass — between his legs — to Tanguay, who was streaking down the left wing.
Lecavalier picked up his fourth assist in two games, giving him 37 points for the season, second on the team to St. Louis' 43.
The Lightning went on a power play with less than a minute left in the second. With 11.4 seconds remaining, Foster's slap shot trickled through Thomas, and the puck was given a final nudge by St. Louis.
Foster had assists on both goals.
"We have to keep the ball rolling," St. Louis said. "The best way to do that is winning games. It makes everybody feel better about themselves. … It's contagious."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Tanguay 6 (Lecavalier, Foster), 18:59. Penalties—Malone, TB (boarding), 6:37.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 8 (Foster, Stamkos), 19:48 (pp). Penalties—Bitz, Bos, major (fighting), 2:41; Konopka, TB, major (fighting), 2:41; Krejci, Bos (hooking), 10:07; Sobotka, Bos (boarding), 19:23; Recchi, Bos (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:48.
Third Period—3, Boston, Sturm 12 (Savard, Chara), 12:30. Penalties—Ference, Bos (boarding), 6:32; Downie, TB (hooking), 8:00; Savard, Bos (slashing), 8:24; Hedman, TB (roughing), 8:24; Wheeler, Bos (roughing), 13:30; Malone, TB (holding), 18:33; Recchi, Bos (slashing), 19:26. Shots on Goal—Boston 10-6-16—32. Tampa Bay 7-24-8—39. Power-play opportunities—Boston 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 1 of 5. Goalies—Boston, Thomas 10-9-5 (39 shots-37 saves). Tampa Bay, Smith 8-10-5 (32-31). A—16,926 (19,758). T—2:30. Referees—Wes McCauley, Don Van Massenhoven. Linesmen—Jonny Murray, Darren Gibbs.