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Bruins Need Commitment From Everybody in Final Push

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

TAMPA, Fla. - "Do you feel defeated?"

"Defeated? No," Chris Kelly quickly responded from the visiting team locker room at Amalie Arena on Sunday night.

The Bruins had just fallen 5-3 to the Tampa Bay Lightning, dropping their third straight loss on the road trip and fifth straight overall.

The team was certainly frustrated, and defeated in terms of the outcome.

But amidst a playoff race that sees them now just one point ahead of the Ottawa Senators for the final Wild Card spot, with nine games remaining, they won't dare feel defeated.

"We lost some big games, but I still think we control our destiny," said Kelly. "We have nine games left. If we go out and play well for these nine games, then good things will happen. We've got a good group here and I feel confident in our group."

"Right now, we've got to playing our best hockey and everyone's got to be willing to commit to playing their best and tonight, that wasn't the case."

"I'm in the dressing room every day and I know there's guys that really care," said Head Coach Claude Julien. "They want to do well, it's not happening and it's disappointing for the people that are fans of ours."

"But at the same time, we have three days here to get some rest, get back on our horses here and finish strong."

The Bruins jumped out to a 1-0 lead 33 seconds into the game. Patrice Bergeron fired in his 21st of the season with Lightning goalie Ben Bishop caught out of his net.

Pockets of cheers from faithful Black and Gold fans were heard throughout the arena. It was the start a team desperate for points needed.

The Bruins had a 4-on-3 power play opportunity that continued the momentum, but the Lightning tied the game at 1-1 at the 5:49 mark of the first. Tuukka Rask made the initial stop, a flurry of chances couldn't be cleared and Tampa converted.

Midway through the period, Boston unraveled in the span of just 15 seconds, when the Lightning struck twice to go up 3-1.

About a minute prior to the momentum changing sequence, Brad Marchand and Steven Stamkos dropped the gloves in a rare wrestling match. It came after Marchand put a hard hit on Valtteri Filppula.

"He's the captain and he just wanted to stick up for his teammate," said Marchand.

At 10:47, J.T. Brown broke through Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg and beat Rask low glove to make it 2-1. Just 15 seconds later, Anton Stralman fired one past Rask from the point as the trailer.

Tampa had put in three goals on seven shots to wrestle the energy from Boston.

"It's tough. We had a really good start, went out and got the first one, which is what you want to do on a back-to-back, in an opponent's building," said Marchand. "And we just can't have those mental lapses where we allow a team to get back in and get three goals on us. That's unacceptable and that cost us the game right there."

The Bruins came out strong to start the second, but still weren't able to sustain much pressure. Tampa made it 4-1 with 12:06 left in the period, scoring four goals on 12 shots, and ending Rask's night. Niklas Svedberg replaced him between the pipes.

"You know, we've got a lot of commitment from a lot of guys, but at this point, you need it from everybody," said Julien. "And that's what we've got to find here."

"I'm not going to start discussing individual play right now, because tonight wasn't about one individual," he said. "It was about a team loss."

The urgency was higher to start the third. Svedberg saved the Bruins from falling down 5-1 in the third, when a 2-on-0 rush developed with Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn, and he pokechecked the bid away.

With 11:38 left, Bergeron drove the net and the puck crossed the goal line right before the net came off its moorings, but it was ruled no goal because of incidental contact.

Chara gave the Bruins life with a power play blast from the point to reduce the deficit to 4-2 with 9:38 to go.

But with 6:10 left, Tampa's Ondrej Palat made it 5-2 with a man advantage tally of his own, as the Bruins got outmuscled trying to clear the loose puck. Max Talbot set up Daniel Paille late in the final minute to make it a 5-3 game, but it was too late to mount any sort of comeback.

"We've got to be accountable," said Bergeron. "We're professionals - [be accountable] for yourself, and make sure you show up every night and right now, it's about making sure we're committed."

"It's on and off and when we are doing the right thing, things are happening on the ice and when we're not, we're seeing what happened midway through that first till the third, so I mean, it's definitely unacceptable right now at this stage, this point of the year, with how important the games are and the points are."

The Bruins wrapped up a stretch of 11 games in 18 days on Sunday, including three sets of back-to-backs. They never had two days in a row without a game during that span.

"No, I don't think [fatigue] should be an excuse," Bergeron firmly stated.

They now have three days without a game for the first time since March 1-4. They next host the Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden on Thursday night.

There are lineup question marks, in terms of Dougie Hamilton's prognosis, and David Krejci's impending return.

But mostly, there are question marks surrounding the team, and how it will respond.

"Well, we've got to bounce back from it, show character," said Talbot. "It's been a tough stretch of games - 11 games in 18 nights, but it's no excuse. We've got to win those games. We're in a big playoff race right now and there's nine games left and we've got to focus on those."

"We don't have a choice - you've got to take these three days here and utilize it properly to regroup," Julien said. "We've got to worry about ourselves, win some hockey games here and if we do that, we're going to give ourselves a chance."

The Bruins can't control what the Ottawa Senators or Florida Panthers, or any other teams, do. They can control their commitment, and what they leave on the ice every night.

"With the situation we're in and how tight it is for playoff race right now, we can't really afford to be making those little mistakes that are costing us goals and ultimately games and right now, it's a matter of being committed to the game, the system," said Marchand. "And we need to all be better at that."

"If not, then it's going to cost us our season. So we've got really buckle down and smarten up. If we don't, it's going to cost us."

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