The Ottawa Senators took over the division lead when Filip Kuba scored 3:07 into overtime to beat Montreal Friday night. The Senators now have 84 points with a 37-25-10 record, one more than the Bruins (40-27-3, 83 points).
The Bruins fall all the way to seventh in the Eastern Conference, as Atlantic Division powers Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New Jersey all have more points than Boston, which also slots in behind the top-seeded Rangers and Southeast Division-leading Florida.
The Bruins still have some advantages in the race with Ottawa. Boston has two games in hand on the Senators. The Bruins also have the edge in the tiebreakers, with 33 non-shootout wins to Ottawa’s 32, as well as a 4-1-0 record in head-to-head matchups this season.
That doesn’t provide a lot of solace for the Bruins though. Not with the club already struggling with its confidence after being outscored 21-8 during a season-high four-game losing streak.
"I don’t think it takes a genius to understand it’s a little rattled right now," Bruins coach Claude Julien said when asked about the club’s confidence after Friday’s practice. "But at the same time, this is the majority of the group that showed resilience last year when we went through some tough times and we did get ourselves out of it. And I have no doubt that we will [this time] also. This is our battle to fight, nobody else’s. You have to have confidence in your group, and we do. Experience and the past certainly shows that this is the group to do it."
The Bruins are hoping to call upon their past experiences of overcoming adversity to pull out of this latest skid. The bulk of the current team was part of last year’s run to the Cup, when the Bruins rallied from losing the first two games of both the opening round against Montreal and the Final against Vancouver. They became the first team to win three Game 7s in one postseason and showed some of that same resiliency earlier this year when they shook off their Cup hangover and a 3-7-0 start with a 25-4-1 run from November through mid-January.
"You always want to learn from mistakes and build on past experiences," Bruins center Chris Kelly said. "A lot of us have been through a lot in our careers and this year, and we’re hoping we can build from that."
The Bruins were last out of first in the Northeast back on Nov. 30. They trailed Toronto by one point that day, and had two games in hand on the Leafs at that point as well. The Bruins took advantage of those extra games and quickly soared past the Leafs.
Now they have to make the most of the limited time and opportunities they have left to overcome Ottawa and earn home ice for the start of the postseason. That starts Saturday when the Bruins host a Flyers squad that has won seven of its last eight in a St. Patrick’s Day matinee at the Garden.
"Right now it’s all about attitude, and how you look at this situation is very important," Julien said. "If you look at it in a way that you’re determined to get yourself out of it you’re going to do the things you have to do to succeed. Right now that’s what we have to challenge ourselves as a group with being able to turn the page. Tomorrow is not just another day, it’s another opportunity. So this is our chance to go out and play the way we know we can play."