The Boston Bruins can certainly relate to the struggles the Florida Panthers are experiencing. They can also prove things can turnaround in a hurry.
With their longest losing streak in 85 years suddenly feeling like a distant memory, the Bruins look to win their fourth straight Saturday night when they visit a Florida team trying to avoid losing its sixth in a row in each team's final game before the Olympic break.
Boston (26-22-11) is in the mix for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, somewhat surprising considering it ended a 10-game skid -- the team's longest since a franchise-worst 11-game losing streak, set Dec. 3, 1924-Jan. 5, 1925 -- with Sunday's 3-0 win at Montreal.
The Bruins followed up that victory with Tuesday's 3-2 shootout win over Buffalo and beat Tampa Bay 5-4 on Thursday. Michael Ryder and Milan Lucic each scored twice Thursday for the Bruins, who nearly blew a five-goal lead.
Boston scored four first-period goals and went up 5-0 on Lucic's goal 4:53 into the second period before the Lightning came charging back.
"Two points are so valuable right now," coach Claude Julien said. "We've lost some games that we should have won, and this one here I think we deserved to win. But we certainly did everything to shoot ourselves in the foot and make it exciting. We need to learn to control our games a lot better."
Despite some defensive breakdowns against Tampa Bay, Boston's offense showed signs of getting back on track.
The Bruins scored more than three goals in a game for the first time in 17 contests and have 11 goals during their winning streak. Boston was limited to two goals or fewer in the final nine games of its skid.
The Panthers (24-27-9) are currently experiencing similar offensive woes.
Florida set a franchise record with its 12th consecutive game scoring two goals or less with Thursday's 3-0 loss to Vancouver. The Panthers have scored 13 times during that stretch and have tallied only four goals during their five-game skid. Florida, which hasn't lost six consecutive games since Oct. 25-Nov. 8, 2008, was tied for sixth place in the East prior to its slide, but has since fallen to 12th.
Unhappy with the team's play, Panthers managing partners Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel issued a letter to the club's fans Friday.
"Clearly, we are not satisfied with some of the players on this team that do not possess the characteristics we need to be successful," the letter said. "We must be accountable for that. Our task moving forward is to acquire players with the attributes, skills and qualities we want in a Panthers player. We must admit the significant shortcomings we have as an organization, and we must move quickly and efficiently to overcome these shortcomings and reshape this franchise on a much more solid foundation."
Tomas Vokoun made 32 saves Thursday in his 20th consecutive start for the Panthers. Vokoun, among the league leaders in shutouts (seven) and save percentage (.930), hasn't had a night off since the Panthers' 2-1 home loss to the Bruins on Dec. 27.
Ryder and Marco Strum each scored for Boston in the last meeting, but that came with Scott Clemmensen in net. Vokoun has recorded shutouts in each of his last two starts against the Bruins, stopping 81 shots in those games.
Bruins goalie Tim Thomas will represent the United States at the Olympics, but he appears to have been supplanted by Tuukka Rask in Boston.
Rask has made five consecutive starts for the Bruins, going 3-0-2 with a 1.90 goals-against average.