BOSTON -- Somebody needs to remind the Boston Bruins that hockey games have three periods.
Third-period collapses are becoming a trademark of this underachieving Bruins squad, which spit out another winnable game last night as they gave up three unanswered goals in the final period in a 4-1 loss against the Maple Leafs.
With their fourth loss in a row -- three of them have come with the Bruins tied or leading at some point in the third -- the Beantowners fell into last in the five-team Northeast Division. Boston has been outscored 29-20 in third-period play this season.
"We played a great 40 minutes and that has been the story so far," Bruins star Joe Thornton said after his team was booed off the ice. "We're just not getting 60 minute of efforts. You go into the third period when you're short-handed so much of the time and you're bound to lose a game."
Indeed, the Bruins took the first four penalties in the third, resulting in two power-play goals for the Leafs. It was a strange way for a team to react after tying the game at 1-1 on a Brad Isbister goal with just 13 seconds left in the second. The Bruins outshot the Leafs 27-15 in the first two periods.
"We had the momentum and it was just taken away from us by taking dumb penalties," Thornton said. "It's still a work in progress ... We have lots of passion on this team but I think we're just not working with a purpose."
With his team off since Saturday, Bruins coach Mike Sullivan worked his players hard in the down time with one double on-ice session and extra video work. Sullivan was hoping to reverse the tide in games against Northeast opponents, but the Bruins came up quite small and their divisional record dropped to a lousy 1-7-1.
"It's ugly," Bruins defenceman Nick Boynton said. "These are the biggest games we have against our division. We've got to start winning them. That's the bottom line. If we don't win them, we're not going to make the playoffs and that's a waste with a team like this."
The Buffalo Sabres, who leaped ahead of the Bruins in the Northeast standings last night, come to Boston tomorrow. "Most of us have been around long enough that we know, if we don't win, something happens (to the roster)," Bruins goalie Andrew Raycroft said. "If we don't want that to happen, we've got to go out and prove it on the ice."