Perhaps I'm extremely late in making this assertion, but the mental fragility of this Canadiens club has become so obvious it's now impossible to ignore after the listless 4-1 loss Thursday night in Tampa Bay.

The Canadiens had a perfect start to the game, scoring on their first shot on goal, creating things offensively, showing some noticeable energy.

James Wisniewski came within a centimetre or two of making it a 2-0 game when he rang a blast from the point off the post on only his third shift with his new team, which would have really put some wind in the Canadiens sails.

It all looked so promising.

Then a brain cramp of potentially unprecedented proportions led to too many men on the ice penalties only 45 seconds apart, and Martin St. Louis scores a crafty goal to tie it up 1-1.

Game over.

The energized team we saw in the first period vanished, replaced by one that was shellshocked that they had given up a 1-0 lead.

When your confidence in your own abilities is so easily shattered, there's reason to be concerned.

Over this 10-game slump where the Canadiens have picked up four out of 20 points, they've gone from playing pretty well but losing to playing uninspired hockey. The kind of hockey where you start to wonder if the coach is getting the most out of his players.

I've been a pretty ardent defender of Jacques Martin ever since he was hired here, even if some of his decisions have been puzzling and I've openly questioned them. I seem to be one of the only ones in the city who thinks he actually had something to do with last season's run in the playoffs. But this is when the coach needs to settle things down in some way.

Whether it's pulling his veterans aside and getting them on board with what he's trying to sell, whether it's making some changes in personnel, whether it's giving an inspiring speech of some kind, Martin needs to do something.

Unfortunately, he can't fit Andrei Markov with a bionic leg, so Martin needs to re-establish some semblance of self-confidence in his team.

I'm not a coach, so I don't know how you go about doing that with professional athletes. But he should know, because that's what he's paid to do.

The need is obvious, and seeing that the Canadiens have now lost in regulation in all 15 games where they entered the third period trailing lays it out in black and white. The team looks as though it simply does not believe it can come back when it's trailing, whether it's in the third period or the third minute.

The Canadiens were hardly ever in a situation where they needed a late-game comeback in the first 28 games of the season, trailing after two periods only seven times. Now, it's happened eight times in 10 games, and a weakness that was once hidden has come to the forefront.

I don't want this to come off like I'm calling for Martin to be fired, because I'm not. I also don't want it to be interpreted as though I feel like the season is lost, because this adversity could prove valuable later on.

But it will only be of value if the team learns something from it and improves as a result. And the burden for that actually happening falls on the coach.