TAMPA, Fla. -- After a scoreless first period with only four shots and an early second-period deficit, the Boston Bruins took over, coming out of the All-Star break with a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night at Amalie Arena.
"To be honest, I really felt our will to win got better in the second and third, and that was the difference in the game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We got ourselves a real important win here."
Tampa Bay (22-23-6) tied the game in the third, but Boston (26-21-6) got the go-ahead goal from Zdeno Chara and a power-play goal by Frank Vatrano that helped the Bruins win their third straight.
"Our power play has been much better of late, our penalty kill again does a great job tonight against a pretty powerful power play," Julien said. "Special teams played a big role in tonight's win."
The Bruins' penalty-kill unit held the Lightning scoreless in four power plays.
Tampa Bay came into the game trailing Boston by six points for third place in the Atlantic Division and is five out of the final wild card in the Eastern Conference, and while the game offered a chance to cut into those deficits, that opportunity slipped away.
"It's become a regular occurrence," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of his team's dropoff after a solid opening period. "How many times am I going to say 'consistency'? You have such a strong first period ... then to give up the amount of scoring chances we did in the second and third ... we weren't the same team."
The Lightning pulled goaltender Ben Bishop late and got a 6-on-5 goal from rookie Brayden Point, redirecting a shot from defenseman Victor Hedman to make it 4-3 with 2:04 to play. Boston goalie Tuukka Rask stopped one last shot to preserve the victory.
Boston's go-ahead goal came at full strength, but only three seconds after a brief 19-second power play after a 4-on-4 period. Chara scored his fourth goal of the season, beating Bishop to the far top corner of the net for a 3-2 lead with 12:09 remaining. Boston made it 4-2 on Vatrano's sixth goal of the season with 7:37 left and only 14 seconds into the power play.
Boston dominated the second period and start of the third with 23 shots to Tampa Bay's four in that span, but the Lightning tied the game on Alex Killorn's second goal of the game with 15:14 left in the third. Killorn's 15th goal of the season came off a loose puck in front of the net right after a faceoff in the Bruins' zone.
Tampa Bay managed only 21 shots, their second-lowest total of the season and lowest since November, when they had 18 in a 3-0 win against Philadelphia.
Boston rallied for a 2-1 lead with two goals in the final two minutes of the second period, including the go-ahead tally in the final second.
The Bruins tied the game with a 4-on-4 goal, as Patrice Bergeron redirected a long, low shot by defenseman Adam McQuaid to get the puck between the pads of Bishop. Bergeron's 12th goal of the season came 15 seconds after Boston committed a boarding penalty while on their only power play of the first two periods.
Boston got a buzzer-beater at the end of the second as center David Krejci fired a shot through two defensemen and past Bishop's glove for a 2-1 lead with 0.8 seconds left in the period. Krejci's 12th goal of the season took all the momentum away from the Lightning, who had grabbed the lead midway through the second.
After a scoreless first period, Tampa Bay jumped ahead on Killorn's first goal, a long shot that beat Boston goalie Tuukka Rask as he was screened by multiple players.
Tampa Bay outshot the Bruins 8-4 in the opening period, but the second was a different story. Boston outshot the Lightning 16-4, including the two late goals.
Cooper was frustrated at the lack of decisiveness shooting the puck, pointing to a 2-on-1 breakaway where forward Tyler Johnson passed up a shot to pass back to defenseman Victor Hedman.
"Shot attempts weren't what they should have been," Cooper said. "When you pass on a breakaway, it's probably the reason why you're not getting shots. That's the mentality we've had much too often."
-- The Lightning got the long-awaited return of rookie Brayden Point, out since Dec. 28 with an upper-body injury that cost him 14 games. While Point returned, the Lightning were without LW Michael Bournival (upper body). D Luke Witkowski was a healthy scratch, with newly recalled Jake Dotchin getting the nod instead.
-- Boston came out of the All-Star break with no injuries, with C Austin Czarnik, D Joe Morrow and D John-Michael Liles as healthy scratches.