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Bruins 4, Lightning 3

Bruins kick off second half with convincing win

Bruins forward Jimmy Hayes (11) tangled with Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn during the first period.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

TAMPA — Cold to start, hot to finish, the Bruins returned from the All-Star break Tuesday night and pinned a 4-3 loss on the Lightning at Amalie Arena with goals by Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, and Frank Vatrano.

Hard-pressed to score two goals a game for long stretches earlier this season, the Bruins now have scored four goals in each of their last three games, all of them victories, all at a point in the season when they have been perilously close to falling out of the playoff picture.

“I hope I don’t jinx myself, but that’s what we were at the beginning of the year,” said coach Claude Julien reflecting on his squad’s scoring woes through the first half of the season. “We seem to be finding our scoring touch. It’s been better now than it was. If other teams are getting dry, then that’s great — time for us to start scoring goals.

“But again, we have to make sure we keep doing it — because it’s not going to get any easier.”

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The Bruins have a chance to run their winning streak to four Wednesday in Washington against the red-hot Capitals. It’s possible that Tuukka Rask (18 saves) will start again in net, a decision that Julien had yet to make as he left the rink to board the team charter flight to Washington.

“I’d say it was a medium night,” said Rask, asked to assess his worknight. “Not a lot of saves, but they had time in our end, and you’re still crouching a lot, under pressure.”

Asked if felt he could start against the Caps, the amiable Finn only smiled and said, “Don’t know . . . we’ll see . . . we’ll see.”

Chara’s strike, his fourth, broke the 2-2 tie with 7:51 gone in the third, only three seconds after Slava Namestnikov vacated the penalty box. Colin Miller faked a big slap above the left circle, pivoted and fed to his far right, and the massive Chara drilled in one of his patented surpercharged slappers.

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“Did you like that shot?” said a beaming Chara as he caught the eye of a passerby outside the dressing room. “Just like old times.”

The soft-serve feed from Miller was right on the mark, put on a string for Chara, already with his stick raised and locked, to drill past Ben Bishop.

“Yeah, he was yelling for it,” said Miller. “I just saw him at the last second there. I don’t think I had a lane to shoot in anyway. I turned and saw him open . . . just a great job by him.”

Nearly five minutes later, Vatrano also drilled in a slapper for Boston’s one power-play goal of the night. Set up by Krejci, the quick-shooting Vatrano watched his shot deflect off the stickblade of Ondrej Palat and beat Bishop, the ex-Maine tender, inside the left post.

After landing only four shots in the first period, hemmed in their own end time and again by Tampa’s relentless forecheck, the Bruins handled the pressure far better in the middle period and squeezed out a 2-1 lead. Over the final 40 minutes, their own forechecking game revved up, the Bruins outshot the Bolts, 31-13.

Krejci’s goal, with less than a second remaining in the second, snapped a 1-1 deadlock. After collecting a Brad Marchand feed from the right side, Krejci first fanned on a shot attempt in the slot and then nailed in a sharp wrister, top righthand corner, from the inner edge of the left wing circle.

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Time: 19:59.40. Every second (or fraction) counts.

Alex Killorn, the former standout at Harvard (Class 2012), provided a 1-0 lead for the Bolts at 8:41 of the second, slapping in a drive from the top of the left wing circle that threaded its way by Adam McQuaid and David Backes.

Killorn’s second goal provided the 2-2 tie in the third, but Chara’s big blast only 3:05 later put the Bruins out front for good.

Earlier, the Bruins potted the 1-1 equalizer at 18:08 of the second, the sides skating four apiece, when Bergeron tipped in McQuaid’s long wrister that came in from just inside the blue line. Bishop, the towering Bolts goalie, allows little shooting space, but Bergeron’s tip found an opening for his 12th goal of the season.

With Bishop out of the net, the Bolts closed to 4-3 with 2:04 left in regulation when Brayden Point tipped in Victor Hedman’s long wrister. The Bolts landed two more shots on Rask, but failed to come up with the equalizer.

“It’s going to be a grind here right to the end, you know?” said Miller, reflecting on the club’s uptick in goals of late. “I don’t think there’s any reason to get overconfident, that’s for sure.”


Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.

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