PHILADELPHIA -- Boston Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart was a lonely figure sitting in front of his locker after his team lost Game 4 of its Eastern Conference Semifinal series, 5-4 in overtime, to the Philadelphia Flyers Friday night.
The Bruins had a chance to eliminate the Flyers at the Wachovia Center, but they didn't get it done and now will return to Boston, leading the best-of-seven series, 3-1, with another chance to close out the Flyers' season Monday at TD Garden (7 p.m., Versus, TSN2, NESN, CSN-Philadelphia).
Stuart returned to the Bruins' lineup Friday -- perhaps too soon -- after missing the previous 14 games with an infected finger. He's been receiving antibiotics intravenously through a box taped to his arm that he removed to play in Game 4.
Stuart was pressed into service because rookie defenseman Adam McQuaid was injured in Game 3. Stuart started Friday's game paired with Andrew Ference, but coach Claude Julien started mixing and matching defensemen as Stuart encountered trouble.
Stuart had a bad second period, when he tipped Chris Pronger's point shot past Boston goalie Tuukka Rask at 4:28, giving the Flyers a 2-1 lead. He was also on the ice when Scott Hartnell and James van Riemsdyk won a puck battle behind Rask's net and Hartnell kicked the puck through the crease to Claude Giroux for the goal that gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead at 8:35 of the second period.
"I made some mental mistakes there that cost us," Stuart said. "No excuses, I can be a lot better than that."
Stuart was asked if isn't a tough assignment to return to play in a Stanley Cup Playoff game in which his team had a chance to sweep the series.
"A little bit," he said. "Physically, I felt all right. I made some mental mistakes out there, but I'll be a lot better. I was a little bit better in the third period, but definitely (not up to speed) in the first and probably about half the second. I wasn't quite getting to areas. It can only go up from here. I'm ready to improve."
Stuart played only two minutes and 43 seconds in the first period; 3:15 in the second period and 3:48 in the third. Julien didn't use him in the overtime period.
"I wasn't surprised I wasn't out there," Stuart said. "I don't think I showed enough during the game to deserve to be out there in overtime, so I wasn't too surprised."
Stuart was naturally elated when Mark Recchi tied the game with 32 seconds in regulation. An overtime win on the road to complete a sweep would have pushed his miscues into the dustbin of obscurity.
"I think the guys worked hard to get that tying goal at the end," he said. "It's anybody's game in overtime and we had some chances. They had their chances and it ended up going in our net first, but you have to give the guys credit for coming back and tying it up."
Stuart found a consoling teammate two stalls down in veteran right wing Shawn Thornton, who urged Stuart not to get down on himself. Thornton said his teammates knew Stuart was coming back into a pressure situation.
"I thought Stuart was pretty good tonight," Thornton said. "You can't always look at who is on the ice (when goals are scored). He did some good things for us. He hasn't played in a while, but he brought intensity and some leadership. I'll tell him not to be too hard on himself."