BOSTON - The Bruins three times held the lead Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. David Pastrnak ended a brief slump with a power-play goal. Zdeno Chara sniped home his second shorthanded tally of the season. And Riley Nash grabbed his fifth goal of the year to put to bed a 10-game scoreless stretch.
But none of those advantages lasted very long. Combined, Boston's lead-time added up to just 2 minutes, 43 seconds.
The Bruins allowed quick retaliatory strikes following each of their goals and, as a result, found it difficult to build much momentum en route to a 6-3 loss to the Bolts at TD Garden.
"Not being focused, not being sharp, and obviously that's - at this time of the year - unacceptable, and it's up to us to be better," said Chara. "I mean, those kind of situations shouldn't happen. So, for sure, we need to address those things and hold each other accountable."
Video: BOS Recap: B's can't hold leads, drop fourth straight
Including Anton Stralman's tally with just over five minutes to go in the second that tied the game, 3-3, the Bruins surrendered four unanswered goals. Three of them - two off the stick of Nikita Kucherov to complete a hat trick - came in the third period while Boston attempted to mount a comeback of their own.
"We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we can't point fingers," said David Krejci. "Everyone has to step up and if every guy is going to do their job, including myself, then the rest will follow, you know, but we [didn't do] that today at all."
The loss was Boston's fourth straight. And after starting 12-3-0 under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, some frustration is beginning to settle in as the Bruins attempt to get their game back on the tracks.
"It's this time of year," said Torey Krug. "Other teams raise their level of play and you've got to find a way to do that to yours. No matter how well you're playing or how well you're not playing, you're going to have to pick your game up.
"Teams that are on a roll and they show up this time of year, you don't just show up and continue to play the way that you have been."
Video: TBL@BOS: Chara picks the corner for shorthanded goal
The Bruins knew they were in for a fight briefly after Pastrnak broke his abbreviated two-game pointless drought with a power-play tally just 1:33 into the second period for his 32nd goal of the season and a 1-0 Boston lead.
But in what would become an unwelcome trend, the Black & Gold's lead did not last long. Some 44 seconds later, Brayden Point jammed one by Tuukka Rask from the top of the crease to knot the game at 1.
Chara then gave Boston a 2-1 advantage with his second shorthanded goal of the season. But just 24 seconds after that, Kucherov notched a power-play marker. Nash followed by once again providing the Bruins an advantage, but only 1:35 later saw it erased on Anton Stralman's short-side rocket under the crossbar.
"That's the last thing you need, honestly," said Rask. "Everybody knows that. You try to address it, I guess - that's the last mistake you need to do - but sometimes those things just happen.
"When it happens three times in one game it's kind of inexcusable. It's something that we should be better at and today it was a tough night for all of us."
Video: TBL@BOS: Nash banks home puck from behind the net
Three more Tampa Bay goals followed in the final period, solidifying the Bruins' fourth consecutive defeat, which coupled with Toronto's victory over New Jersey, has them sitting three points behind the Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division.
Boston's situation does not get easier on Saturday when they visit the Islanders, who currently trail the Bruins by just two points for the final Eastern Conference wild card position. The Islanders take on Pittsburgh on Friday night and could be tied with Boston with a victory over the Pens.
"We're four in a row here, but this needs to stop Saturday or the bleeding starts to get profuse after that," said David Backes. "The guys are in this room. We know it. We've seen it. We need to look in the mirror. We're going to do it tonight and tomorrow, have a great day tomorrow, and get to New York and put a 60-minute game on the ice where it doesn't matter what they're doing.
"We're going to impose ourselves and have that game where we just start to finish, make the plays, bail each other out, stick together, and win a game."