Even Vezina Trophy winners can look human when staring down Steven Stamkos.
In the first period, Stamkos foiled Tim Thomas with what the goalie termed a perfect shot - a wrister from the right circle that slipped through the puckstopper.
In the third, during a power play, Stamkos set up at his preferred work station: the left circle. With the help of a Dennis Seidenberg screen, Stamkos hammered home a one-timer so fast that it would have needed clearance from air traffic control at Logan Airport.
Thomas was determined not to let Stamkos beat him a third time.
In the third, with the score tied, 2-2, Thomas turned back a fast-moving Stamkos shot on the power play, then smothered a Teddy Purcell follow-up bid at 11:00. Thirty-four seconds later, Benoit Pouliot scored the deciding goal in the Bruins’ 5-2 win Tuesday night over the Lightning before 17,565 at TD Garden.
“When we went down and took the lead, it felt good,’’ said Thomas (16 saves). “Obviously those points are more important to us than they are to them.’’
The Bruins stretched their winning streak to three games. They are 5 points ahead of Ottawa in the Northeast Division. Buffalo, which dismissed Washington Tuesday, is 7 points behind in the division.
Stamkos had been a one-man demolition crew for most of the game. At 5:03 of the first, he gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
Shawn Thornton responded with a first-period tap-in at 10:54. At 15:05 of the second, Seidenberg gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead when he swatted in the rebound of a Zdeno Chara shot.
But Stamkos punched back with his 55th goal at 5:46 of the third.
By then, Thomas had seen enough of Stamkos triggering the red lamp. With Tyler Seguin in the box for high sticking, Thomas had to be wary of several things. He didn’t want to be too aggressive toward the puck and be caught out of position against Tampa’s dangerous attackers. But when Stamkos had the puck on his blade, Thomas decided to attack the sharpshooter.
“I was going to get aggressive on him,’’ Thomas said. “He can pick those corners so well. I was trying to take away everything on Stamkos. Fortunately he went glove.’’
Thomas wasn’t out of danger. Purcell was lurking near the net, sniffing for a loose puck. Thomas went down into his butterfly and got in front of Purcell’s shot.
“That was just lucky,’’ Thomas said. “It hit off somebody before it hit my head. That was just a positioning save.’’
Thomas did his part on Stamkos and Purcell. At the other end, Pouliot and Brian Rolston clicked for the game-winner.
Earlier in the third, Pouliot was in the runway behind the Boston bench. He had stepped on a stick, which had mangled one of his skate blades. After some repairs by the equipment staff, Pouliot was ready to go.
On the goal, Chris Kelly started the rush by speeding through the neutral zone and flinging a rim around the wall. Rolston, on the forecheck, pursued the puck in the left corner. After a battle, the puck skittered out to Zdeno Chara at the left point. Chara, who had assisted on two previous goals, rocketed a slap shot on goal that Dwayne Roloson stopped.
But Roloson left a rebound. Rolston found the puck, curled around the net, and saw Pouliot in front.
“Benny was just in the right spot,’’ Rolston said. “It was a good forecheck. We got in. It was a big goal at the time. It was tough to get anything really going offensively tonight. But it came at a good time.’’
With Roloson caught out of position, Pouliot whipped the puck into an empty net at 11:34. Brad Marchand and Rich Peverley (empty net) added insurance goals later in the third.
It was Pouliot’s 14th goal and fourth point in his last three games. With the assist, Rolston stretched his scoring streak to seven straight games. He has a 3-9-12 mark during the streak.
Both Pouliot and Rolston could have been candidates to sit when Peverley returned from a sprained knee. But neither of the two is doing anything to merit any suit-and-tie time.
“It’s good,’’ Pouliot said of his confidence. “I’ve got to credit the guys on the team and my linemates right now. They’re making it a little easier. We’re clicking pretty good. It helps everyone. Not only me. We’re winning games. Everybody’s feeling good.’’
It wasn’t a perfect game. The Bruins, who had spent most of Monday flying back home from Los Angeles, fought some tired legs for stretches of the game. Roloson (33 saves) foiled some of their best scoring chances. The Lightning, playing their trademark trap, didn’t allow the Bruins to develop much offensive rhythm.
But big saves and timely goals can overcome blemishes. The Bruins hadn’t won three straight since late December.
“That last month or so, it’s been hard,’’ Chara said. “But it seems like we’re on the right track. We don’t want to see anybody take any steps back now.’’