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B's Demand 'Better Effort' with Crucial Road Trip Ahead

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BOSTON — “Disappointing.” “Sloppy.” “Unacceptable.”

Those were the words the Bruins used to describe Tuesday night’s 5-3 loss to the Dallas Stars at TD Garden.

But perhaps David Krejci said it best.

“We have to play a full 60 minutes, and we have to be sharp in every area of our game, and we were not today,” he said. “We’re still losing games, and we’re not playing a full 60 minutes. If you don’t put the full 60-minute effort together, then it’s going to be hard to win hockey games in this league.”

The Bruins entered Tuesday’s game knowing what they had to do. They hadn’t been putting their best effort forth for three straight games, dating back to a Feb. 4 loss to the Rangers. There have been mental mistakes. There has been a lack of commitment to the system. There have been intermittent lapses in effort.

“I think we have to definitely go back to just playing our system,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “We all know what we need to do on the ice, and we all know what’s given us success. It’s about layers, it’s about trusting that the other guy is going to do his job, and we’re not doing that.”

The B’s needed to fix those areas of improvement on Tuesday night, in their final game before setting off on a season-long five game road trip and facing some of the best teams the Western Conference has to offer.

When all was said and done on Tuesday night, the Bruins hadn’t done any of what they set out to do.

“It’s got to come from within,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “We’ve got a tough road trip coming up. I don’t think we can panic, but the one thing we can do is we can wake up and realize what needs to be done here, and it’s going to take some good efforts, some grit, win battles with some determination.

“Right now, we don’t have a lot of guys doing that.”

The first period got off to a good start for the Bruins, and they expected it would get even better after they received a five-minute power play when Dallas’ Antoine Roussel was tossed from the game for cross-checking defenseman Adam McQuaid in the throat.

But not only were the Bruins unable to convert on the power play — which was their first since Saturday’s game against the Islanders — they allowed their first shorthanded goal of the season. Krejci attempted to go point-to-point to Torey Krug, but Vernon Fiddler had other ideas, picking off the pass and beating Niklas Svedberg on a breakaway.

“I thought we played 10 good minutes, then we got away from our game plan,” Krejci said. “We played really badly — poor decisions.”

Boston would get the goal back on a nice play by Milan Lucic about three minutes later — he tossed it in front of the net for David Pastrnak, who made a quick pass to Krejci in time for Krejci to fool Kari Lehtonen — but the tie didn’t last long. With about 5 1/2 minutes left in the frame, Stars captain Jamie Benn charged the net and got a step on Dougie Hamilton, then roofed it past Svedberg to give Dallas a 2-1 lead.

“That’s a bad gap,” Hamilton said. “I’ve been trying to work on that, and he beat me.”

Added defenseman Zdeno Chara, “We know that when we play a certain way, we are pretty effective, and when we are not, we start doing something different. That is how we get into trouble. A lot of times, we need better effort, we need better urgency, we need better mental focus. It is just a combination of all of those things.”

Three minutes and 15 seconds later, Benn increased Dallas’ lead to 3-1 when a deflected puck came right to his stick in the right circle and he went high on Svedberg again.

Svedberg would finish the period but was replaced by Tuukka Rask to start the second.

“What matters is that I played like [crap], and we lost the game,” Svedberg said. “I think I should take the blame for this loss, and I think I played a poor game. Obviously, Tuukka has played a lot of games lately, so he needed a night off, and this was a time when I needed to step up, despite not playing that much — up here, at least.

“This was an important game for our team and for me to step up, and I failed. So it’s pretty simple.”

The second period, though, seemed to be precisely the fresh start Boston would need.

Despite starting the frame on the penalty kill due to an unsportsmanlike conduct call on Hamilton, the B’s didn’t waste any time generating some offense. Brad Marchand and Bergeron found themselves on a 2-on-1, and with Lehtonen playing deep, Bergeron put the puck just over the goal line, pulling Boston within one just 26 seconds into the period.

The B’s tied the game when a point shot hit Chris Kelly in front of the net, then bounced right to Hamilton in the right circle. Hamilton buried it to knot the score at 3 with 13:18 left in the second.

Even after coughing up a two-goal lead, though, the Stars were certainly not defeated. When the Bruins received a four-minute power play after Hamilton took a high stick under the eye, Trevor Daley earned Dallas its second shorthanded goal of the night when he took the rebound of a Carl Soderberg shot from end to end, wristed the puck in on Rask and then buried his own rebound.

“[The power play] is something we need to get right, and we don’t have much time,” Chara said. “We need to turn this thing around really quickly. It is unacceptable to be getting scored on twice in one game [shorthanded], obviously, in a crucial part of the game. We need to be better.”

That final miscue was one from which the Bruins would not recover. Erik Cole capped off the scoring with an empty-netter with 33 seconds remaining.

“I thought we were done talking about [this] a month ago, but I guess not,” Rask said. “We just keep going back to the same mistakes we used to do and not keeping our heads in the game. If we don’t fix that now, it’s going to be too late pretty soon.”

The loss leaves behind a sour taste as the Bruins head out on the road. It even sours the memory of an excellent month of January, during which the B’s were able to fix the bad habits and systemic errors that are beginning to creep up once again.

They know the sense of urgency they showed during that month is still there, deep down. Now, it’s just about rediscovering it and making sure it’s there, night in and night out, for a full 60 minutes, for each game of this upcoming road trip that begins on Friday night in Vancouver.

“Coaches are there doing their job to get us ready, but it doesn’t mean that we’re ready to go, or that it’s going to come easily,” Krejci said. “Sometimes, I can just talk about myself: first period felt unbelievable, and second period, I couldn’t handle the puck for [some] reason.

“I don’t know [if it’s] a confidence lull or whatever, but that is what it is right now, so out here, as a team, we’re going to get out of this hole. We have to stick together and just start playing well.”

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