Now the Bruins just have to hope they've hit bottom with their 6-1 loss to the Lightning, and that they can use this defeat as motivation to finally turn their season back around.
"It's disappointing to say the least," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "When you spot them a three-goal lead and a four-goal lead after one period, and [have] 17 shots [against] and we give them six goals, that's unacceptable. We all need to take the blame for that. We need better goaltending and also up front we're making a lot of mistakes. D's [making] bad pinches, forwards not covering up and a lot of the execution is not that great."
There was certainly plenty of blame to go around in this one. But as is usually the case in hockey, it all began in the crease.
Marty Turco got his first start as a Bruin, but he wasn't able to carry over his strong play in relief on Sunday into this game. Turco gave up a goal on the first shot he faced just 1:56 in, then another on the third shot 30 seconds later. The first of those goals was somewhat controversial, as Tom Pyatt appeared to kick it in. The referee on the ice initially waved it off, but a video review overruled that call and counted the goal.
That was a debatable call, but Turco put himself in a bad position by losing his stick on the play. On the second goal, it was the puck he couldn't hold on to as he flubbed tying it up at the left post, giving Nate Thompson a chance to flip it into the empty net from the top of the crease.
A third goal on Tampa's sixth shot at 4:31, which came when Ryan Shannon scored on a clean breakaway on a power play, chased Turco from the net. In less than five minutes, Turco had failed in his two tasks for the evening, as he was unable to keep the Bruins competitive nor was he able to give Tim Thomas some much-needed rest.
Thomas was no better. He gave up a goal on the third shot he faced and another on Tampa's first shot of the second period, giving the Lighting a 5-0 lead while outshooting Boston 11-2. Thomas ended up with a little rest after all, as he returned to the bench after Steven Stamkos scored on a weak wraparound attempt 3:06 into the middle frame. Turco gave up one more goal in his second stint between the pipes, with Stamkos blasting home his 50th of the season in the third period.
The Bruins have now lost three straight for the first time since the first month of the season, but their issues stretch back much further than just the sloppy starts of their last few games. They are now three games under .500 in the last two months, going just 12-15-2 in 29 games since Jan. 14. Their last three-game losing streak came at the end of October, when the Bruins started 3-7-0 before shaking off the effects of their Stanley Cup hangover.
But the effects of that grueling postseason run last spring appear a little more long-lasting than the club had hoped. This looks like a tired team, from the goal crease out. Thomas has not been the same goalie he was a year ago, or even a couple months ago, and he appears to be wilting even faster under the strain of an increased workload with Tuukka Rask sidelined.
That makes Turco's struggles on Tuesday even more concerning. The rest of the long list of injuries depleting the team's depth is certainly a factor in this lingering malaise as well. But other teams have weathered similar losses. Look no further than Pittsburgh, which is on a nine-game win streak without stars Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang, both of whom are close to returning.
The Bruins have to put together some sustained success, and time is running out for them to build momentum for the playoffs and secure their lead atop the Northeast Division. Ottawa is just two points back in that race, and the Bruins now have just one game in hand on the Senators after wasting one on Tuesday.
"It is for sure a concern," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. "We can say whatever we want to say about the bounces not going our way and every time there's a little deflection it ends up going in our net, but there's no excuses. We just have to be better."
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