BOSTON - Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steve Stamkos had a pair of goals to tie a pair of Hart Trophy winners for the NHL lead in goals.
That's not the race he's interested in. Stamkos scored his 44th and 45th goals, tying Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead, and Paul Szczechura also scored twice to help Tampa Bay beat Boston 5-3 on Thursday night. The win was the 500th in Tampa Bay franchise history, and it kept the suddenly streaking Lightning alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
"It would be nice" to win the scoring title, Stamkos said. "But if I win it and help this team win at the same time, that's (better). I just want to try and produce offence. That's my job, that's my role. I want to help this team win and see what happens at the end of the year."
Antero Niittymaki stopped 47 shots the Lightning, who have won two straight since losing five in a row - and 12 of 14 - to fall to the brink of elimination. Niittymaki stopped 19 shots in the third period as Boston tried furiously but belatedly to come back from a three-goal deficit.
Martin St. Louis also scored for the Lightning.
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.
Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk and Mark Recchi scored for Boston, which has a two-point lead over ninth-place Atlanta, a 2-1 overtime loser to Toronto on Thursday night. The 10th-place New York Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils in a shootout to move three points behind Boston.
And then there's the Lightning, who jumped over Florida into 11th place, six points behind Boston.
"We've got an uphill climb, but no one in this dressing room is quitting right now," Stamkos said. "That's two big wins for us - a big win against the team that we're chasing. It's been a tough year for us. We believe we deserve a better fate. We've been very inconsistent this year and it's definitely cost us to where we are right now. But we've still got a shot. We've got to believe that."
Stamkos was the league's top draft pick in 2008, following a path taken by Ovechkin (2004) and Crosby ('05). Ovechkin won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player in 2008 and '09, and Crosby was the MVP in '07.
"It's pretty surreal when you think about" being tied with Ovechkin and Crosby, Stamkos said.
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.
"He's a young player that's had a great year, and he's playing with a lot of confidence," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "They're led by a guy named St. Louis, who's the heart and soul of this team. This young player is kind of riding his coattail and soaking in everything he can."
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.
Chara scored his first goal in 16 games, cutting 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 slap shot to extend the lead again.
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; Foster sat out the third period.
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.
NOTES: Boston's Vladimir Sobotka missed the game with a head injury. ... Lightning defenceman David Hale played just five shifts before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury and did not return. D Steve Downie played just one shift in the fourth period due to an undisclosed injury. ... The Bruins have no power-play goals in their last eight games. ... 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. ... 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.