- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Bruins forward Mark Recchi stood on the TD Garden ice in the second period Thursday with his arms in the air, thinking he had scored the tying goal.
So, after the lowly Florida Panthers defeated Boston 1-0, the veteran and team leader sat at his locker with his thumbs down.
"I still don't think we had 20 guys tonight," said Recchi. "The guys who were going were generating a lot of opportunities and we have to put those in. This time of year, you need 20 guys regardless. That's a little bit of a disappointing part because we definitely controlled the game, played the right way and we should have won this one."
The worst part of Thursday's loss is that the Bruins couldn't carry over any momentum from their 1-0 overtime win over the Devils on Tuesday in New Jersey. Plus, both Philadelphia and Atlanta lost, which means if Boston had won, it would have jumped ahead of the Flyers and increased its lead over the Thrashers in the Eastern Conference standings.
"In a game like this, if we have 20 guys, we don't lose," said Recchi. "We beat New Jersey with 20 guys. It's no secret this time of year. You might not feel good, and this time of the year chances are you don't feel great, but you have to dig deep down and do it for your teammates and do it for yourself. You have to find ways."
The Panthers, tied for 26th in the league, found ways. Goalie Scott Clemmensen made 36 saves while the rest of the team blocked 32 shots. Florida played hard. It competed and didn't quit even though the Panthers' season is all but over
"I don't know if you underestimate them or not, but this time of year I don't think you should underestimate anybody," said Recchi. "I've been on the other end when you're spoiling teams' opportunities, and there's nothing more enjoyable when you know you're five games away from the end of the season, and if you can hurt somebody's chances of making the playoffs, that's what you play for -- and that's what those guys are playing for right now."
Recchi wouldn't name names during his heartfelt tirade, but looking at the final score sheet, it's obvious who he was talking about.
The line of David Krejci, Michael Ryder and Blake Wheeler was discombobulated in a big way Thursday night. The trio registered only five shots the entire game -- five. Krejci had all of them. He had only two after two periods and three in the final 20 minutes.
Wheeler had a perfect scoring opportunity when the Bruins were shorthanded in the third period. Boston created a 2-on-1, but Wheeler attempted to deke instead of passing or shooting, and it resulted in a turnover.
Ryder, who played extremely well against New Jersey on Tuesday, was invisible Thursday.
"Ryder is probably our best shooter and he ends up with zero shots," lamented coach Claude Julien. "Those are the things we need from those players. I thought Ryder played a much better game in New Jersey and tonight we needed more out of him as well. He's one of a few more that we needed more out of."
Ryder's outlook on the game was a little different.
"When you run into a goalie like that, sometimes it's tough. We threw a lot of pucks at him and couldn't bear down on our chances," he said. "We did a lot of good things tonight that we can look at, it's just a matter of us still throwing pucks at the net and maybe getting more traffic and maybe bearing down a little more."
Julien made sure to drop the gauntlet afterward.
"There's no doubt we have some players who could have been much better for us tonight -- absolutely," said the coach. "A lot of those players are the players we need to help us get through this. You can't stand here and say, 'We were outstanding tonight.' We lost the game, and had everybody been as good as they can be, we would have won this game."
Obviously, they didn't.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins and Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.