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Bruins outplayed in ugly loss to Florida Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — No matter what problems have beset them this year, no matter who has been in or out of the lineup, the Bruins at least have been competitive on a nightly basis.

Up until Tuesday night at the BB&T Center, that is.

The B’s limped out of the gate and were then outplayed by the Florida Panthers in every facet of the game – even strength, special teams, offense, defense, even goaltending – en route to a thoroughly uninspiring 5-0 loss. The Panthers made it a laugher with four-goal second period.

“Tonight, it was men against boys, it looked like,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Some of our younger players had their hands full. This team’s played us well even with a full lineup last year. I thought they were very strong. We’ve got to find a solution. We’ve got some time, but we’ve got to get our collective selves together for Thursday.”

It is the first time the B’s have lost consecutive games in regulation, and to two divisional opponents who are behind them in the standings, no less. It was the worst loss of the season since the opening-night 7-0 blowout loss to the Capitals. The B’s quickly bounced back from that defeat, but there wasn’t much positive to grasp from this one.

Was it just a collective bad night or is the daunting reality of their injury situation finally taking its toll on the Bruins both mentally and physically? Time will tell. But if the B’s bring the same performance Thursday in Tampa against the explosive Lightning, then that one is going to get ugly in a hurry.

Cassidy conceded their current winning formula – good goaltending, tight defense and the timely power play goal – can get mentally tiring.

“It does, so there is a concern. But that’s the hand were dealt, so that’s what we have to do and stay with it,” Cassidy said. “So you get a game like tonight and you get behind and maybe a bit of your energy is gone knowing that, ‘Geez, we have a tough time scoring, how are we going to get three to win this thing?’ That can’t creep in. But I’m sure – they’re human beings – it does.”

The B’s went 0-for-4 on the power-play while the Panthers connected on 2-of-6 man advantages.

The visitors sleepwalked through the first 20 minutes and then the ceiling fell on them in the second.

First, Colton Sceviour split Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug (minus-3) but couldn’t get a shot off until he was behind the net. He tried to bank it off Jaroslav Halak and the puck sat in the blue paint seemingly forever. Krug tried to reach around Halak to clear, but he was beaten to it by Mike Hoffman, who tapped it home.

Then defenseman Mike Matheson was allowed to score on an end-to-end rush. First, the former Boston College defenseman blew past Ryan Donato at the Florida blueline, then he left Krug in his wake at the Bruins blueline before picking his spot between Halak’s blocker arm and body to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead at 13:13.

The B’s had a chance to get back in the game when Michael Haley was called for goalie interference. But just 16 seconds later, David Pastrnak took a holding penalty on a Florida shorthanded bid. On the ensuing 4-on-4, a harmless looking Jonathan Huberdeau shot from the top of the left circle somehow leaked through Halak at 15:14.

That was that. Hoffman added a PP goal with 3.7 seconds left in the second and Evgenii Dadonov added one in the third.

“I need to be better, especially in the second period,” said Halak, who nonetheless made 39 saves. “If we can come out of the second period 2-0, it could have been a different game going into the third.”

Roberto Luongo recorded 33 saves for the shutout, but actual scoring chances were far fewer than the shot total would suggest.

What’s the solution at this point? Well, a cage-rattling transaction within their farm system could be made. Danton Heinen, for one, has not produced a point in 10 games. But there are only so many of those cards to play. The blame for this loss could be spread far and wide. If the B’s are to snap out of this, it will have to be primarily these players to do it.

“I know there’s a lot of pride and character in the room,” Cassidy said. “Some it is sitting at home in Boston right now but the guys in here are going to have to realize that. Because if your best players aren’t your best players, especially now, you’re going to have a tough time.”

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