The B's (69 GP, 40-26-3) have 83 points, just two points up on the Ottawa Senators (70 GP, 36-25-9) who play last-place Montreal tonight.
Last night in Tampa Bay, the B's spotted the Lightning a four-goal lead in the first period en route to a 6-1 setback, which set the Bruins back on their heels and set the stage for a tie atop the Northeast Division.
"That’s what really has thrown us off right now," said Head Coach Claude Julien of the B's inability to stop teams early. "You give those teams leads, and all of a sudden guys are getting frustrated and we just kind of get away from our game plan.
"Instead of playing the way we should, now we are starting to cheat to get those goals back in frustration. We’re making poor decisions, and so on and so forth. It just snowballs.
"You look at the shots – you give them 17 shots and six goals, it’s not acceptable. But I’m not putting all the blame on the goaltenders either, because there’s mistakes that are being made out there that we should no better. Everyone has to take responsibility when it comes to that."
The Lightning struck early as a puck hit Tampa Bay's Tom Pyatt in the skate and deflected by Marty Turco
, who was making his first start for Boston. The play was called "no goal" on the ice, but was overturned and gave the Bolts a 1-0 lead.
Until Jordan Caron
scored at 1:55 of the third, the Lightning struck four more times as Turco and Tim Thomas
swapped places twice.
"We made the change and asked Tim to go in there, and then before the second period started...I said [to Thomas], 'If you can hold the fort for now and we can get ourselves a goal or two then we’ll get ourselves back in the game, but if they get the next goal I’ll pull you.’
"And that’s what they did, they scored the fifth goal and that point I thought it was more important to put Turco back in, give Tim his rest and give Marty more playing time."
In the end, Thomas stopped three of five shots and Turco saved eight of 12. Meanwhile, at the other end, rookie Lightning netminder Dustin Tokarski (33 saves) and the Lightning seemed to get all the breaks during the contest.
However, don't tell that to Julien.
"I mean we can talk about being a little bit snake bitten, but that’s a coward excuse from our end," said Julien. "You make your own breaks, so I don’t want to start using that an excuse. If anything, we need to find a way to win hockey games, that’s the important thing now - to find solutions.
"Finding excuses is a coward thing and it makes your team weak and gives them easy outs. We have to find a better way to start our games. Our intention is to go out there and take away everything they wanted throw at us, to be really solid around their net area and find a way to score that first goal.
"The first one goes off a skate, but it’s a good goal at the end of the day. Then, again probably not a great goal in the second one, but we still got two guys around their two and they still find a way to get away from us to score. We can ask that our goaltending to get better, and I think that’s something that’s a valid point, but at the same time we still have to better around them as well."
But the frustrations continue to pile up for Boston.
"Yeah it is, I’m not going to lie about it it’s frustrating," said Julien. "You’re ready to start the game, and everybody’s got the right intention and everyone is telling you they’re ready to go and determined to the job.
"And then...they had three goals. It’s tough, and like I said you got to get your team refocused going into the second and do the right things, versus continuing, they kept bad habits."
And those bad habits might be fueled by fatigue.
"That’s the biggest challenge I have right now - we’re not playing well and then you have the fatigue factor," said Julien. "So, we've got to right the ship and yet those guys somewhere along the way need some rest.
"Again, it’s a tough decision because you want to be in the right spot for the playoffs, and you also want to make sure you’re as fresh as you can be but you got to win games to get in that position right now."