Mere minutes after Carolina was denied in its second attempt to send the Bruins into a summer rife with what-ifs, Carolina coach Paul Maurice began the rebuilding process his team needs if it is to have any hope of winning Thursday's Game 7 at the TD Banknorth Garden.
By his account, he delivered some not-too-nice words to his team, a group that lost Game 5 at the Garden, 4-0, and followed it up Tuesday night by dropping a 4-2 decision in Game 6 at a raucous RBC Center, falling behind 2-0 before the game was six minutes old.
Yet, defenseman Tim Gleason called the sermon "inspiring."
"It's amazing the words that you say and how they are heard," Maurice said, a hollow laugh punctuating his sentence.
"I believe in this hockey team, I really do," he continued. "Sometimes you say unkind things because you expect more and better out of them. I just want us to believe, to play the game we are capable of playing, go in their and do that.
"If we do that, you don't worry about the outcome. You've played your best; you've given your best. I don't want to bring any emotional baggage into Game 7 -- we had them up 3-1 or whatever. It doesn't matter."
But, there is no denying that Carolina will carry some extra emotional and mental baggage on Wednesday's flight to Boston. After dominating the Bruins for three-straight games to put the East's top seed on the brink of elimination, Carolina has lost the plot.
Its top line, headlined by center Eric Staal, has gone into hibernation. There is no longer talk of goalie Cam Ward being in the heads of Boston's forwards -- a popular theory just a week ago -- after he has allowed eight goals in the last 59 shots. The power play has not scored in its last 10 opportunities.
The team's defensemen have been hammered by a suddenly resurgent forecheck. Its forwards have lost their urge to backcheck with the vigor that was a hallmark of the three-straight wins that first turned this series on its ear.
"Some of our forwards had a nice, easy night," Maurice said bluntly.
Those forwards agreed.
"We have to be a better team to win," said Tuomo Ruutu, who was a minus-3 and had just one shot. "We have to have that will. You don't even have to say anything. We weren't good enough tonight."
But, they also agreed that Game 6 is already in the past. Game 7 is all that matters and the emotional steeling needed for that do-or-die contest had already begun as the players peeled off their sweat-soaked uniforms -- perhaps for the final time in the Carolina dressing room this season.
"We just regroup and get ready to play another game," said captain Rod Brind'Amour. "This team has always fought hard and it seems like whenever you counted us out, we've played our best, so I'm sure everyone's counting us out right now."
The world-against-us mentality seems to be one of the galvanizing themes the Hurricanes have settled upon as they prepare for a game that will define the season for both these teams.
"I'm sure a lot of people didn't expect the series to go seven games," Gleason said. "If anything, they were probably pulling for Boston. This is exciting, the best time of the year. I'm excited. We'd probably like to play it right now."
But, they can't play Game 7 right now. Instead Carolina will have two full days to rue what they let slip away and anticipate what awaits them Thursday in Boston.
But, they can also recall their miracle escape from a certain Game 7 loss to New Jersey in the previous round. Carolina scored two goals in the game's final two minutes to turn a near-certain one-goal loss into a dramatic 4-3 win.
"There's almost a pressure that comes off you when you get into an elimination game," Maurice said. "You go out and you know you can leave it all on the ice. You're not hoping to get through it, or hoping to get a break. You have to make them. This will be a heck of a Game 7. We've been in one already that will be as exciting a hockey as you will find and I would expect the same."