BOSTON — Garnet Hathaway scored the tiebreaking goal late in the second period and the NHL-best Boston Bruins wrapped up first place in the Atlantic Division with their sixth straight victory, 2-1 over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.
The win was the Bruins’ 56th and moves them one behind the club record set in 1970-71. It also keeps them on pace to set the NHL record for victories in a regular season with 10 games left. The Detroit Red Wings won 62 in 1995-96 and Tampa Bay matched it in their final regular-season game (at TD Garden in Boston) in 2018-19.
Patrice Bergeron added a power-play goal for the Bruins and Linus Ullmark made 26 saves, raising his record to 36-5-1.
With the playoffs on the horizon, the league’s best team and the team who has advanced to the past three Stanley Cup Finals, played a rough-and-tumble game with some early fireworks.
Lightning winger Pat Maroon and Hathaway had to be separated before the opening puck drop. And that eventually didn’t matter, as they dropped their gloves anyway, just nine seconds into the game. The scrum started when Tampa Bay center Ross Colton, who got a double minor for roughing, went after Boston center Jakub Lauko.
“That’ll get you excited for playoff hockey, yeah,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said as he walked into his postgame press conference.
Montgomery also noted that he and Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper exchanged glances from across the benches after the early scrum.
“I looked at him before the game started,” Montgomery said. “I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a great coach. I wish I had his wit.”
Victor Hedman had a shorthanded score for the Lightning and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 32 shots. Tampa Bay has lost four straight.
Hathaway, positioned in front of the net, batted the rebound of Matt Grzelcyk‘s shot from the left point out of the air and into the net before Vasilevskiy could control it with 2:28 left in the period.
Ullmark stopped Anthony Cirelli‘s backhander on a partial breakaway with about seven minutes left.
With Maroon in the penalty box with an unsportsmanlike conduct for something he did on the bench, Bergeron was credited with his 27th goal when Brad Marchand‘s pass hit his skate before caroming into the net off Hedman’s skate 6:46 into the opening period.
Hedman beat Ullmark with a slap shot from the top of the left circle for his goal just under three minutes later.
The Bruins killed off a two-man, power-play advantage midway into the second, holding the Lightning to one shot on goal. Then, just one shot before the second penalty expired.
Boston played without forward A.J. Greer, who was serving a one-game suspension for cross-checking Montreal’s Mike Hoffman in the face in Thursday’s 4-2 victory over the Canadiens. Greer could be back in the lineup with then Bruins take on the Carolina Hurricanes Sunday.
“I loved our effort,” Montgomery said, adding that a division title secured with 10 games left in the regular season was “tremendous.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.