Tim Thomas saved all seven shots in the shootout and Kessel scored on Boston's seventh attempt, giving the surging Bruins a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night. Thomas and Tampa Bay goalie Marc Denis matched each other for the first six attempts, but after Thomas stuffed Ruslan Fedotenko for his seventh stop, Kessel lofted the puck over Denis for the game-winner.
"It feels good to help the team win," said Kessel, Boston's first-round pick in the 2006 draft. "It was my first attempt in a shootout. The plan was to go outside, fake him out and then go upstairs."
Mission accomplished. Boston improved to 3-2 in shootouts, while Tampa Bay dropped to 2-1.
Brad Boyes, P.J. Axelsson and Glen Murray scored and Patrice Bergeron had two assists for the Bruins, who beat Tampa Bay for the third time this season and have won eight of 10 overall.
Eric Perrin and Vincent Lecavalier each had a goal and an assist and Martin St. Louis also scored for the Lightning (13-12-1), who lost their second straight after winning three in a row.
Boston came back from deficits of 2-1 and 3-2 to force overtime despite being outshot 31-22 in regulation. Tampa Bay has won just twice in its last 23 games in Boston.
"We're not going to hang out heads because of a shootout loss," Tampa Bay centre Brad Richards said. "But it is frustrating because we had the lead a couple of times and only came away with one point."
Thomas saved 31 shots in regulation before turning away all seven Lightning attempts in the shootout to win his third consecutive start. Thomas won his third straight shootout after losing his first two of the season and going 2-6 in shootouts last season.
"Last year I wasn't a big fan of shootouts because of my lack of success," Thomas said. "They are very stressful. They're like poker, there's some skill involved but a lot of luck."
Luck seems to be on both Thomas' and the Bruins' side these days.
Thomas improved to 10-5-2 after winning only one of his first six decisions, while the Bruins (12-9-2) have used their current stretch to climb three games above .500 for the first time since ending the 2003-04 season 41-19-15-7.
Denis, seeking his 100th career win, hasn't won since Oct. 26 and dropped to 0-4-2 during that stretch. He saved 22 shots before the shootout.
"Shootouts are a roll of the dice when it gets six, seven, eight deep," Denis said. "It's hard to figure out tendencies. I'm not going to question myself."
Lecavalier's goal 9:50 into the third period snapped a 2-2 tie, but Murray tied it 1:05 later when he retrieved Marc Savard's pass in front of the net and beat Denis over his right shoulder.
Thomas made a diving stop in the third period and withstood a late Tampa Bay flurry to force overtime. He then saved all three of Tampa Bay's shots in overtime before his perfect shootout.
Boyes' third goal in three games gave Boston a 1-0 lead 11:06 into the first period when he backhanded Bergeron's pass past Denis. But Tampa Bay scored two in a row to take its first lead.
Notes: Bruins defenceman Paul Mara sat out with a lower-body injury sustained in Boston's 4-1 win over Toronto on Tuesday. He is day-to-day. ... Bergeron extended his career-best point streak to eight games. ... Lecavalier has six assists against Boston this season. ... Tampa Bay dropped to 1-4-2 against the Northeast Division. ... Tampa Bay outshot Boston 14-8 in the second period. ... Each game between these teams has been decided by one goal.