BOSTON -- For the second time in a week, the Boston Bruins had a chance to catch the Montreal Canadiens, tie them for first place in the Northeast Division and move from eighth to third in the Eastern Conference. But just as they did in Montreal this past Thursday, when they lost 4-3, the Bruins came out with no emotion and energy Monday night and lost 3-0 to the Anaheim Ducks.
While the Bruins certainly ran into a hot goalie in Jonas Hiller, who stopped all 45 Bruins shots, many of those shots came from the perimeter. The ones that penetrated and resulted in chances in front of the net weren't finished off because, according to coach Claude Julien, there wasn't enough hunger to finish.
Clearly frustrated with his team, which has lost four of its past five games, Julien didn't mince words after the game. He knows the lack of intensity and desire needs to end soon, before the Bruins find themselves on the outside looking in in terms of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
"We had all the reasons in the world to want to compete tonight -- an opportunity to move up five spots. We didn't have enough guys going tonight, there's no doubt there," Julien said. "Our compete level, that needed to be better and that started with our forecheck, sustained forecheck. We didn't have a sustained forecheck.
"At the same time, whatever scoring opportunities we had, we have to show a little bit more hunger in the finishing department. Because we had some chances, and maybe if we finished on a few of those you've got a different game. But we've got to be a lot better than that. Right now we've got to find that intensity and that emotion that is needed for us to compete the way we want to compete."
The players seemed to grasp this dilemma as well, but not everyone is doing something about it. There are simply too many passengers on the Bruins right now, and the train is having trouble staying on the tracks.
"Everybody has to realize that they need to get up for those games," captain Zdeno Chara said. "It should be an honor, and everybody should play with a lot of pride and passion. I don't know. We all have to prepare for the game and play hard. It's just one of those things that you have to find a way to get ready for these games."
Center Marc Savard -- who can be allowed some slack, as he has been back for only nine games -- wasn't shy in calling himself out and admitting he needs to be part of the solution right now.
"You can say we had 40-something shots, but a lot of them were one shot and out," Savard pointed out. "We've got to dig down. I think the intensity level was lacking tonight on a lot of us, and Coach switched the lines there for the third [period].
"We seemed to have some more jump a bit, just to try and get some energy, because we were getting stale there a little bit. We created chances, but bottom line is that you've got to come to the rink and want results. I think, including myself, I'm probably top of the list right now, I'm not getting any and that's not helping the team at all. So we've all got to look in the mirrors here. We've got one more [game] before Christmas and we need it big-time."
The Bruins have a chance to improve things Thursday against Atlanta, but while the players are saying all the right things, Julien seemed to care less Monday night. He wants to see improvement on the ice, and it starts with emotion. The Bruins were able to right the ship last season after enduring a 10-game winless streak, but Julien doesn't seem to have the patience for another stretch like that.
"I remember last year, we went through a little bit of that phase, and it really was a situation that eventually got turned around, and you want to make sure that that doesn't creep into your game for too long," Julien said.
"This game is about emotion, and I know I keep repeating it, but that's the thing to me that probably hurt the most tonight. We should have been emotionally involved. We should have been excited about playing this game tonight.
"We should have been exciting. The intention of waking up tomorrow morning or leaving tonight in third place -- that should have been exciting enough, and unfortunately, that didn't happen."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.