BOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Bruins appear to be quite ready for the playoffs.
And the Tampa Bay Lightning are slumping at the wrong time of the season.
The top two teams in the Eastern Conference slugged it out Thursday night and Boston prevailed, knocking Tampa Bay out of first place for the first time since October with a 4-2 win on Thursday night.
"This definitely had a playoff feel to it," said Brand Marchand, whose empty-net goal with 56 seconds left sealed it for the Bruins, who took over first place in the conference with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season.
"Obviously we all know how big it was for the standings and what it meant for both teams. So it was great to see the guys react the way they did and have the game we did."
Patrice Bergeron had a goal and two assists, Tim Schaller and David Pastrnak scored goals 32 seconds apart in the final minute of the first period and Tuukka Rask made 26 saves for the Bruins, who have 107 points and lead Tampa Bay by a point.
Boston has six games remaining in the regular season to five for Tampa Bay.
For the first time since Oct. 18, a team other than the Lightning leads the Eastern Conference.
"I think it means that we've been playing pretty good hockey the last couple of months," said Rask, who also helped set the emotional tone by unloading a flurry of punches on Tampa Bay's Cory Conacher during a scrum in the second.
It was one of many times in the game that postseason implications were apparent, including a rare fight for Pastrnak in the third period and several more battles before the officials had to separate both sides one final time -- after the third-period buzzer.
"There was a ton of passion," Tampa Bay's Alex Killorn said. "There was a lot of hits and a lot of scrums after the whistle. It seems like it could potentially be a playoff matchup. It definitely had a playoff atmosphere tonight."
J.T. Miller scored a power-play goal for Tampa Bay in the second and Victor Hedman added a goal in the third. Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 26 saves for the Lightning, who have lost three straight and are 0-3 against the Bruins this season.
"Playing in here is always difficult," Killorn said. "The second and third period, I think we did a pretty good job. We created a lot more opportunities for ourselves."
Killorn had an apparent goal waved off in the third when a teammate was in the crease with Boston leading 2-1. A few minutes later, Torey Krug passed to Bergeron at the side of the net for a goal to put Boston up 3-1 at 11:59 of the third.
The Lightning cut it to 3-2 when Hedman beat Rask through his legs with 6:06 remaining in the third, but Marchand's empty-netter sealed it and Boston took over the top spot in the division and conference.
"It was a big win for us. Finally we jumped them after a whole season chasing them," Pastrnak said.
The Bruins outshot the Lightning 17-6 in the first period and took a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals in the final minute.
Schaller put Boston up 1-0 after stealing the puck from Ryan McDonagh just inside the blue line and started a 2-on-1 break with Tommy Wingels, who got off a shot as Schaller crashed the net and poked in the rebound.
Killorn took an interference penalty with 31 seconds remaining and Pastrnak scored 5 seconds into the penalty, putting the Bruins up 2-0 with 26 seconds left in the period.
The game paused for a few minutes with 8:44 left in the second after Rask took a few shots at Conacher when he was slow to get up after getting tangled with Brandon Carlo in the crease.
Rask landed several punches with his glove before players from both teams jumped in and were eventually separated.
Vasilevskiy skated toward the other end, but was cut off at the blue line by referee Francois St. Laurent, who kept the Tampa Bay goalie from entering the fray. Boston fans roared their approval by shouting "Tuuuuuuuuk!" throughout the altercation.
Later in the second, it was Pastrnak stepping in after a hit on Bergeron and squaring off with Tampa Bay's Dan Girardi. Pastrnak said it was his first fight and his inexperience showed when Girardi quickly took him down, but the Bruins appreciated his effort.
"I don't think I've fought ever -- like ever," he said. "I'm a pretty calm-down guy."
NOTES: Krug finished with two assists. The Lightning and Bruins play one more time in the regular season, Tuesday night in Tampa Bay. ... Boston improved to 7-1-0 in its past eight against Tampa Bay. ... Boston D Zdeno Chara, who signed a one-year contract extension with the Bruins on Wednesday, missed his seventh straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper entered the game with 239 wins, tied with John Tortorella for the most in franchise history. ... The Bruins haven't lost in regulation since Florida shut them out 3-0 on March 15.
Lightning: At New York Rangers on Friday night.
Bruins: Host Florida on Saturday afternoon.
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