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'We Need This Win': B's Prep for Panthers in Penultimate Game of Season

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

SUNRISE — The message was simple following one of the Bruins’ most disappointing, most critical losses of the season.

Move on. Forget about it and move on.

“Right now, we have less than 24 hours to get ready for the next [game],” said forward David Krejci after a 3-0 loss to the Capitals on Wednesday night at the Verizon Center. “[Thursday] is going to be the biggest game of the season. We're still controlling our own fate, so just forget about this one. Move on.”

The disappointment was obvious following Wednesday’s game. The Bruins entered the matchup knowing that they had a massive opportunity in front of them — win, and force the team chasing them in the standings to do the same in order to remain in the playoff hunt — but they squandered the opportunity.

Boston got off to a slow start. It allowed two goals within the first seven minutes of the game, and a hole like that against a goaltender like Braden Holtby — a goaltender the Bruins would prove unable to score on this season — was insurmountable.

It was not at all the game the Bruins expected to play at such a critical juncture, but afterward, there was nothing they could do but move on as quickly as possible. After finishing the game just before 11 p.m., they had to get on a plane, fly to Sunrise, Fla., and prepare for what promises to be another difficult matchup against the Panthers.

There was no time to mope. Not if the Bruins wanted to right the ship less than 24 hours after the defeat.

“[We have] two games left,” Krejci said. “If we get four points, we're in. So that's what we have to focus on.”

Despite the loss on Wednesday night, the Bruins remain in control of the final wild card berth in the Eastern Conference, and they remain in control of their own fate. They have two games remaining on the 2014-15 docket: one against Florida on Thursday night, and one against Tampa Bay on Saturday night.

If they win both, and win at least one in regulation or overtime, their season continues. That is the only thought running through their heads as they prepare to face the Panthers.

“We just want to forget about this and move on to [Thursday],” said goaltender Tuukka Rask, who stopped 30 of 33 shots against the Capitals. “It's a big game [Thursday], and we can't start thinking about this too long. So that's it.”

The Panthers may be out of playoff contention, but that doesn’t mean they won’t pose a challenge at BB&T Center on Thursday night. In fact, with the Panthers looking to play spoiler against a team that seemingly evolved into one of their biggest rivals this season, the challenge they pose figures to be greater than ever.

Each of the three times Boston faced Florida this season, it was a battle — no matter the stage of the season, no matter the circumstances. The Bruins won the first matchup 2-1 in overtime in early November. The two teams did not meet again until March 21, when the Panthers eked out a 2-1 win in a shootout.

Boston took the third matchup just over a week later, and once again, it was by a narrow 3-2 margin of victory.

In three games, Boston has outscored the Panthers by a single goal at 6-5. Goaltender Roberto Luongo hasn’t been perfect when the Bruins have faced him this season, but he has been difficult to beat, stopping 52 of 56 shots the last two times he has faced the Bruins.

On Thursday night, the Bruins’ sole mission will be to make his job as difficult as possible, as early as possible.

“We definitely have to turn the page, and bottom line is, we’re still in control if we take care of business,” said forward Patrice Bergeron. “So it’s about worrying about Florida right now.”

A short-term memory will be one of Boston’s most valuable assets heading into their final two games. That applies in a win or a loss. All season, the Bruins have preached that it is critical to avoid getting too high or too low at any stage of the season, and they will be forced to put those words into action on Thursday if they want to stay alive in the playoff race.

And the Bruins, despite the circumstances of Wednesday night’s loss, can carry some positives into Thursday’s game. They won the five matchups prior to Wednesday’s, knocking off some of the toughest competition the NHL has to offer in the process. During that winning streak, Rask never allowed more than two goals, and for the most part, the Bruins were defensively sound and executed the system with proficiency. They have taken 11 of a possible 14 points from their last seven games.

And they know they can beat the team that awaits them at BB&T Center. It is just going to take more of what they were doing to put themselves back in playoff contention, and less of what they did — or didn’t do — on Wednesday.

“We have to take care of ourselves, here, and erase this one as quick as possible and really focus on winning [Thursday],” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “We need that win.”

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