TAMPA, Fla. – Boston had to work hard to take positives out of Wednesday's 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, a loss that sets up a winner-take-all Game 7 that Boston wanted to avoid at all costs.
But, as the Bruins players filed out of a silent visitors dressing room at the St. Pete Times Forum, the process of mentally preparing for Game 7 was already in motion.
"It's going to be a tough night, maybe," said Bruins forward David Krejci, who had a natural hat trick in the loss. "But, once you wake up tomorrow, you have to forget about it. I think we have done a pretty good job of that after a win or a loss -- to forget about it and regroup no matter what. Hopefully, we can do it again."
If they are to do it, they will have to forget about the bad in their game – allowing three-straight power-play goals after taking a 2-1 lead and committing a couple of huge defensive-coverage breakdowns -- and concentrate on the good – erasing Teddy Purcell’s quick strike goal to open the game and refusing to lie down after Tampa Bay took a 4-2 lead just 34 seconds into the third period.
"That's a positive, the way we never stopped and showed some character," alternate captain Patrice Bergeron said. "We have to build on that last 10 minutes, I guess."
"We were able to fight back and give ourselves a chance," a defiant Milan Lucic said, standing in the corner of the room and spreading the message of hope. "You have to be confident. You gotta believe. You can't have any regrets. Everything is on the line here. It's a chance to move on and play for something that you have been dreaming about your whole life. We're in a situation here that is an exciting situation and we have to go out there and have fun with it and make the most of it."
The Bruins believe that if they can play Friday's Game 7 at TD Garden with the same effectiveness and intensity they did the final 10 minutes of Game 6, they have an excellent chance of advancing to the organization's first Stanley Cup appearance in 21 years.
Boston carried the play to Tampa Bay almost non-stop from the time David Krejci made it 4-3 at the 9:46 mark of the third period. If not for a defensive lapse – Bruins defender Johnny Boychuk got caught pinching – that allowed Martin St. Louis to score what proved to be the game-winning goal, things could have turned out differently.
They cycled the puck relentlessly and put Tampa Bay goalie Dwayne Roloson under intense pressure. They even scored on the power play, something they had not done in 25 previous man-advantage attempts on the road this postseason.
"It just shows how we can play," defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said of the late surge. "We just have to find a way to play like that. It's tough to do the whole game because it is the last push; but we can take positives out of it and take out what we did well in this 10 minutes and just try to add them into our whole game."
Plus, Boston is playing this game at home. There have been five Game 7s already this postseason and the home team has won all but one. It should be noted, however, that Tampa Bay has that road victory – against Pittsburgh in the first round.
"Right now, it's tough," said Krejci, who is the first Bruin since Cam Neely in 1991 to record a playoff hat trick. "It was a tough loss, obviously. But, that is why you work all season to get home-ice advantage and now we have it for Game 7, in our building, in front of our fans. It's going to be exciting. You're still one win away from Stanley Cup Final."