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B's Off; Face Toronto Thursday

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

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Features - Following three games in four days, the Bruins were off Wednesday, and will be back together for morning skate at TD Garden on Thursday, prior to facing off against the Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. (ET).

While the three-in-four stretch saw the B's start out on the right foot with a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday, the following two games didn't leave a good feeling in the room.

The win was the bright spot of the stretch. After falling down 2-0 in the first period off two power-play goals by the offensively fire powered Lightning, the Black & Gold netted two man-advantage goals of their own en route to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory, and Brad Marchand's fourth game-winner of the season.

Following the win, the B's knew it wasn't their best game - with too much time spent in the penalty box - but were pleased with the effort that brought them two points.

"I told the guys we had 40 minutes left and it was important for us to try to stay out of the penalty box," Coach Julien had told media following the game. "Five-on-five we could get ourselves back in the game."

"As odd as it may have seemed, I don’t think there was any panic in our dressing room, there wasn’t any panic as far as we were concerned; coaches were pretty happy with what we saw. Like I said, we just had to try and stay out of the penalty box."

Six times this season, the even-keeled B's came from behind to win the game; strong third-period efforts were synonymous with the spoked-B.

But as of late, the newfound luxury of a lead hasn't panned out so well.

On Sunday against Montreal in the second game of their back-to-back, the B's gained a 3-2 edge over the Canadiens, after getting down 2-1 in the first. But Montreal's two third-period goals propelled them to the eventual 4-3 win. Boston had not given up a three-goal lead since April 4, 2011.

Two days later, a 3-0 lead in an energy-filled first period for the Bruins in Washington, D.C. that had it all - special teams goals, penalty shot, Shawn Thornton's first fight since Jan. 31- couldn't carry the B's to two points. Instead, they walked away with one, and are now 5-2-1 when leading after two periods.

On the flip side, Boston is 7-1-0 when tied after the second and has earned at least one point in every game where the B's have trailed heading into the third, for a 2-0-2 record.

"It's very tough. We had the game in the bag and we got complacent. It's a very tough loss," said winger Brad Marchand from the visiting locker room, after the loss to the Caps.

"It really shouldn't have even gone into overtime. That's on us, we have to be better."

"We weren't playing our game. We were sitting back and we were really giving them a lot of odd-man rushes."

"When we give up three or four goals it definitely means we've got to fix some things," he added.

The tough stretch saw the B's go 1-1-1 and pick up three of the possible six points. Despite the slide, they are only one point behind Montreal in the Northeast Division standings, with still three games in hand.

But for a team that holds themselves to exceptionally high standards, the B's will be looking to right the ship immediately with a strong performance against the Leafs on Thursday.

The last outing in T.O. saw Boston execute a sound, technical game and Tuukka Rask earn his 12th career shutout with a 1-0 win that Coach Julien called "definitely up there" in terms of the B's best hockey all season. It was a strong bounce-back game for the Bruins following their first regulation loss of the season to Buffalo (7-4).

And that's the DNA of this team - to rebound from situations. Their play on the ice may have been questioned the past two games, following stinging defeats, and not being able to put the Habs and Caps away, but the character of this team is well known.

This group, led by Zdeno Chara, and the ever-consistent Patrice Bergeron, may have gotten complacent with a 3-0 lead over the Caps, but there's a reason their recent play has been labeled as "uncharacteristic" and the third-period skids have surprised even their Coach.

I'll be looking for the B's to find another gear against the Leafs; being around the locker room, you can easily feel the disappointment in the losses - and frustration at letting themselves get too comfortable - but there's a real determination to this team and staff that allows them to assess where they're at, what they need to improve, draw from their experience, and decide how they can move forward.

And that's what can be expected, come Thursday night.

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