PHILADELPHIA – Halfway through the third period, with his team trailing by three goals, Claude Julien waved his white flag.
Julien, who had pulled Anton Khudobin in the second period, put his starter back in. The Bruins coach instructed his players to keep their shifts short. All Julien wanted was for the train wreck to end without any of his players getting hurt.
“You run through your four lines, try to give them as much rest, and try to prevent injuries by [not] playing guys too much,” Julien said after the 5-2 loss to the Flyers Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. “It’s a crappy way to coach. It’s not the way we wanted to coach this game. Unfortunately, it’s the hand we were dealt.”
The Bruins emerged from the loss to the Flyers with good physical health. It was the only positive from the game. Their mental health was in tatters.
“Too many giveaways, too many turnovers,” David Krejci said. “It [stinks]. Hopefully we can regroup and forget about this game. We’ve got three games to go. We’ve got to focus on those games and get ready for the playoffs.”
The Bruins had strutted into Philadelphia after three straight home games — albeit a 1-1-1 run against Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Florida — in which they were pleased with their effort and execution. Their aim against the Flyers was to continue building their game against a non-playoff opponent.
Instead, they demolished everything they had worked to build. The only thing they did right was swing a wrecking ball into their collective game.
“That was definitely a step back in our game,” Julien said. “Really poor puck management tonight and poor decision-making. That to me is a reflection of guys not being ready to play. At one point, they’ve got to take the accountability of being ready. We do a lot of work to prepare. It certainly reflects on us as well as a whole team — the coaching staff and everybody else. But too much of that lately and not enough focus.”
The Bruins pointed to several occasions when they crumbled. Their biggest fold job came in the second period. At 11:24, Matt Read had given the Flyers a 2-1 lead.
After the following faceoff, Oliver Lauridsen rimmed the puck around the boards into the Boston zone. Zdeno Chara retrieved the puck out of the corner. He intended to backhand the puck behind the net. Instead, Chara mistakenly sent the puck toward the slot.
Khudobin could have let the puck go, but the Flyers might have pounced on it in the slot. So Khudobin turned his stick to corral the puck. He turned his stick too far.
The puck glanced off Khudobin’s blade and into the net at 11:31, giving the Flyers two goals in a seven-second span. Khudobin slammed his stick into the post. Then he saw Tuukka Rask putting on his mask and skating out to the crease.
Khudobin left the ice and didn’t return to the bench for the rest of the period.
“I tried to control my emotions,” said Khudobin, pulled midgame for the second time this season. “I was pretty angry. I just tried to calm down and get good things going. Just pretty much pull my head from the fire.”
The other implosion took place in the third period. Krejci, who had just 1 point in his last nine games, beat Steve Mason (39 saves) at 8:20 of the third to make it a 4-2 game. It was Krejci’s first goal since April 2.
But on the following shift, the Bruins handed away the puck in the neutral zone. The Flyers responded by kicking off a two-on-one rush. Before Rask could react, Simon Gagne had ripped a net-front strike into the net at 8:33, just 13 seconds after Krejci’s goal.
“Poor, soft, poor puck decisions, poor puck management, soft, being first on the puck sometimes,” Julien said, rattling off all his team’s shortcomings.
Julien tried some changes to kick his team out of its slumber. Rask manned the crease in the second period. Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand, regular players on the power play, stayed on the bench when the Flyers were called for three penalties in the second. Gregory Campbell and Milan Lucic saw man-advantage time in their place.
In the third, Jaromir Jagr replaced Seguin alongside Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Seguin skated with Lucic and Krejci.
“We’re running out of time to get this stuff going,” Julien said. “You always hope that it’s some sort of a wake-up call. But the way the season’s gone, you’re questioning whether they will or not. Only time will tell.”Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.