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For a night, Bruins clearly second-rate

On paper it went down as a one-goal loss, but to the Bruins it felt much worse. As a result of dropping a 3-2 decision in Philadelphia Saturday night, the Bruins gave up the top spot in the Eastern Conference to the Flyers.

But that wasn't the primary reason the dressing-room atmosphere was funereal. After all the talk of what the matchup meant, after all the speculation about which team was better, the Bruins knew deep down that they came up short in more than one way.

One could say the Bruins didn't play very well for the majority of the game or one could say the Flyers were sensational. However unhappy they were about the outcome, it was just the Bruins' second loss in regulation in a month. Since losing to Carolina at home Oct. 23, they've gone 7-1-1-3 in their last 12 games -- hardly a reason to be overly downcast. But for long stretches, the Flyers took it to Boston, and that had as much of a psychological effect as it did physically.

"It was a tough game," said defenseman Hal Gill, who had a rough outing. "They play that trap pretty well and every pass it seems like they're aggressive on it."

Gill blamed himself for the Flyers' second goal -- scored by Simon Gagne -- and it was Gill's penalty late in the second period after Boston had rallied to tie that resulted in the winning goal.

"It's too bad I got beat wide there, and that shouldn't happen," said Gill about Gagne's goal. The penalty also shouldn't have happened, said the defenseman. "It's a tight game and little things like that make a huge difference," said Gill. "If we could've kept them to one goal in the beginning . . . "

Ah, the beginning.

The Bruins had just three shots in the opening 20 minutes, two in the final 20. A team isn't going to win many games doing that.

"We kind of lost it there for a second," said Gill of the Flyers' first goal, which came at 6:24 of the first as a result of a dump-in that caught Boston flat-footed. "It's a tight game and one goal can make a huge difference. You can't get beat, that's all.

"We had a lot of little turnovers in the neutral zone. They're good about chipping it up the boards and getting it low and they have guys going with speed and that's tough to play against. The first period they came pretty hard and they always do in this building. We kind of let it get the best of us. They play good with a lead and when they need to, they can turn it on, but it's all still the same system. We maybe can take a page from that book."

The Bruins will see the Flyers at home Dec. 6 for the next test.

"Personally, I, and I think most of the team, was really excited to play that [game]," said Gill. "We wanted to be known as a first-place team and it makes it that much harder. I think we played all right, but we can pick it up a notch and we all know that."

Defenseman Nick Boynton said he didn't think there was much difference between the teams.

"I thought we could've won, but they capitalized on their chances and we didn't," said Boynton. "We had plenty of chances to win. I don't know if that's a good sign or a bad sign. At least we came back and tied it up. They came out strong and we have to come out stronger. The power play at the end [of the second period], that [was] the game right there pretty much."

The Flyers clamped down hard defensively and Keith Primeau's line did a stellar job of covering Joe Thornton's line.

"It was a frustrating game that way," said Boynton. "They played their system pretty well and we weren't making good passes. We were just throwing the puck to guys and it was bouncing and you can't do that. You have to have a system and everyone has to be on the same page or else it just doesn't work and you end up in our own end for about 40 minutes like we did.

"We can play better, definitely. We're a good team and it was still a close game, so I guess that's encouraging because we know we can play with them. But it's frustrating to lose, especially because we didn't play our best and we were still plenty close to getting the game."

Next up: the St. Louis Blues on the road tomorrow night.

"It doesn't get much easier," said Gill. "We're the team who should be going after them and they should be worried about us."

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Tuesday at St. Louis, 8 p.m.

northeast standings
Boston 11 3 3 3 28
Toronto 8 6 5 2 23
Buffalo 9 9 2 1 21
Montreal 9 10 1 1 20
Ottawa 8 6 2 2 20
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