BOSTON - The Boston Bruins are moving up in the NHL standings by beating the Eastern Conference's best teams.
One game after shutting out the Ottawa Senators, Tim Thomas held Pittsburgh scoreless for 53 minutes, stopping 27 shots on Thursday night to lead the Bruins to a 5-1 victory over the Penguins and give Boston its fifth consecutive victory.
"We figured out we're a simple team. We're not pretty, and you could even call us ugly," defenceman Aaron Ward said. "But you have to have your niche in the league, and we do."
Boston's niche for most of the past decade has been to hover around the post-season bubble and exit the playoffs quickly. But with seven victories in eight games - going unbeaten on a five-game road trip - the Bruins have moved within six points of first place in the Eastern Conference and improved their chances of a strong playoff run.
"Our goal has always been to make the playoffs," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We've had success with short-term goals."
Marco Sturm scored twice to reach 200 NHL goals, and Zdeno Chara, P.J. Axelsson and David Krejci also scored for Boston, which has back-to-back victories over two of the top three teams in the East. Thomas was working on his second consecutive shutout until Pascal Dupuis scored with 6:57 left.
Dupuis was playing in his first game with Pittsburgh since being acquired from Atlanta at the trade deadline. Also coming to the Penguins in that deal was five-time all-star Marian Hossa, but he lasted just 13 shifts before banging knees with Glen Murray in the second period and leaving the game.
"It was an accidental hit, knee-on-knee," said Hossa, who could miss about a week. "This is disappointing. I was trying to get comfortable with my linemates. But injuries happen, and this is the tough luck of the business we're in."
The Penguins are also without captain Sidney Crosby, out since Jan. 18 with a sprained right ankle, and forward Gary Roberts, who hasn't played since breaking his leg Dec. 29.
The Bruins didn't make a move at Tuesday's deadline. Instead, general manager Peter Chiarelli addressed the players and told them he has confidence in them.
"Players believe in this hockey club," Julien said. "Guys in the dressing room are happy to remain together."
Penguins starter Ty Conklin, who had a career-high 50 saves on Tuesday to beat the Islanders, was pulled after giving up three goals in 13 shots in the game's first 22:21. In came Marc-Andre Fleury, who hadn't played for Pittsburgh since Dec. 6; he stopped 16 of 18 shots he faced as the Penguins lost for the first time in seven games.
Sturm beat Conklin 9:49 into the game when he redirected Chuck Kobasew's shot through the goalie's pads. Then Sturm scored again 2:18 later with a slapshot from the left circle.
Zdeno Chara made it 3-0 with a slap shot from the point off Pittsburgh's Petr Sykora's leg at 2:21 of the second period. It was the Bruins captain's eighth goal in 10 games.
Notes: Pittsburgh blew a chance to take over the top seed in the Eastern Conference. ... Milan Lucic and Jarkko Ruutu had a lengthy fight late in the third period, electrifying the crowd. ... Boston hasn't won five straight since the 2003-04 season.