BOSTON — Captain Steven Stamkos believes the Lightning has already "exorcised some demons" this season.
Why not one more?
Tampa Bay racked up big road wins in Anaheim and San Jose in February after having struggled out west recently. The Lightning also has beaten the Canadiens twice in Montreal this season, including Tuesday's impressive 1-0 overtime victory at the Bell Centre, where Tampa Bay's season ended in a first-round playoff sweep in April.
But tonight the Lightning enters its house of horrors — TD Garden in Boston — to face the Bruins. Tampa Bay hasn't won a regular-season game in Boston since March 25, 2010. The Bruins have won the past nine meetings overall, including 4-3 on Jan. 13 in Boston. And now Boston, battling for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, is playing its best hockey this season, going 5-0-1 in its past six.
"Over the years, how well Boston has done, they're kind of the Big Bad Bruins," Stamkos said. "They've always played well at home. I think teams kind of have a sense heading into that building it was going to be a tough night. A lot of teams have trouble here. Now we've got some guys who have experience, and obviously we're on a roll, so hopefully we can keep that going."
The Lightning has won four straight, coming off arguably its best game of the season. Tampa Bay dominated possession against the Canadiens, racking up 75 shots (36 on net). "If we can play like that (tonight), we'll be okay," center Tyler Johnson said.
The problem is, the Lightning might not have the lineup it had Tuesday. The victory over Montreal was costly.
Forwards Ondrej Palat and Cedric Paquette, and defenseman Braydon Coburn were injured. None of them practiced Wednesday in Boston, and coach Jon Cooper was uncertain about their status for tonight. A callup was possible.
"All three of them could play; all three of them couldn't," Cooper said "It's unfortunate because we don't know what to do."
Palat took a shot off a foot in the second period; Cooper said X-rays were okay. Paquette and Coburn's injuries were undisclosed. The good news for the Lightning is right wing J.T. Brown, who has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury, was a possibility to return. Defenseman Matt Carle (abdominal surgery) won't play but could return Saturday against the Jets.
The Lightning was also banged up in its last trip to Boston, playing without Johnson and defenseman Victor Hedman in that Jan. 13 game. Tampa Bay was up 2-1 in the second period but allowed three goals over six minutes to lose.
"We're getting closer and closer," Stamkos said. "We're definitely a better team than the last time we were there. I think we exorcised some demons on that (West Coast) trip. Hopefully we can come in here and do the same. It's been a long time since we won a game here, and (the Bruins) are playing well. They're fighting for their lives."
Stamkos said the Lightning is developing the kind of confidence that lets it believe it can find a way to win in any situation, whether it is coming from behind in the third period Saturday against Dallas or outlasting the Canadiens on Tuesday.
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"Our road record on the big scale doesn't show we've won some big games on the road, but we have," Cooper said. "Boston is just another one we'll have to overcome at some point. Will it be (tonight)? Will it be the next time we play them? Who knows? But as a group, we're gaining more and more confidence. If we play games like we did (Tuesday) night for a full 60 (minutes), that will give us at least a definite chance to win some games on the road."
Including in Boston.
Contact Joe Smith at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.