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Winter Classic recap: "Embarrassed" Bruins fall flat on the big stage

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The crowd was fired up. The national TV cameras were rolling. The Bruins had a chance to get a huge boost. Instead, they fell flat, playing an embarrassing game that may linger for some time.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The C-130 roared over Gillette Stadium as the national anthem wrapped up, the frenzied crowd creating an amazing atmosphere for hockey. The NHL was ready, the media was ready, the fans were ready for a memorable Winter Classic.

Someone forgot to tell the Bruins.

Putting forth one of their worst efforts of the season, the Bruins got stomped by the Canadiens before nearly 70,000 people at Gillette Stadium, falling 5-1 in the most lopsided Winter Classic defeat in the event's history.

"We have nights where things just don't go your way, and we just couldn't seem to find the rhythm," said Claude Julien after the game. "We couldn't seem to find our game."

That's a bit of an understatement. The Bruins were utterly humiliated in this game, barely avoiding a complete disaster by recording a single goal in the third period (from Matt Beleskey).

They went minutes upon minutes without registering a shot on goal in the first period, heading into the locker room down 1-0 and outshot 14-3. Scoring chances? Laughable. Aside from a great glove save on Ryan Spooner as time ran out in the second, Needham native Mike Condon could have taken a nap in the crease and not missed much.

The Bruins were flat, lifeless and disinterested. Again, the word of the day: embarrassing.

The Canadiens, on the other hand, were ready to play. David Desharnais got the Habs on the board just over a minute into the game, and the Canadiens never looked back.

Led by two goals from Paul Byron and a goal and assist from both Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher, the Habs were in control the entire night, setting up camp in the Bruins' end for stretches that seemed to go on forever.

It was Gallagher who gave Montreal their biggest boost, and one can't help but notice the contrast: Gallagher, Montreal's talented pest, returns, while Brad Marchand, the Bruins' talented pest, sits. The difference was apparent on the ice.

"He certainly provided a spark," said Condon of Gallagher. "He does all the little things right. [He was] the spark we needed right now."

Truthfully, however, the Canadiens didn't need much of a spark. With the effort the Bruins put forth, the Habs could have played this game with their helmets on backwards and still won going away.

Why?

"I think it just seemed like it was one of those nights we couldn't get anything going [in] the first period," said Julien. "They were all over us. It just didn't matter what we tried to do...we just couldn't get it going."

Part of that boils down to the Bruins missing two of their most creative offensive players in Marchand and David Krejci. But the rest of the guys? Invisible. Aside from a decent showing by the Beleskey-Ryan Spooner-Jimmy Hayes line, results from the Bruins' forwards were nonexistent.

The lack of effort is why, after the game, Torey Krug was left making comments like this:

When all's said and done, it's a single game. While the Bruins' inability to show up on one of the sport's biggest stages is troubling, it doesn't have to cost them more than the two points they lost today.

In fact, it may be that this game shows what the Bruins are really made of: do they fold after this embarrassment, or process it, learn from it and improve?

It won't take long to find out, with the East-leading Caps coming to town on Tuesday.

"You've got to put these aside," said Julien. "You just have to tell yourself you need to be better, and we have to be better as a group. We're challenged right now, but that's where team comes into play. You have to play for each other."