"I've said it a million times. We'll think about this till midnight," Thornton said, as he stood in front of his stall in the Bruins' visiting team locker room at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.
It was roughly 10:10 p.m., so the forward had just under two hours to lament his team's 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 3.
"We'll go over some things tomorrow and then we'll get ready for Thursday's game," he continued.
But first, the lamenting.
On Tuesday night, the Bruins found themselves in at least a two-goal hole for the third straight game.
In Game 1, they fought back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to tie the game at 3-3 and send it to double overtime, ultimately falling 4-3. In Game 2, they were in a 3-1 hole early in the third, and stormed back to win 5-3.
In Game 3, they found themselves down 2-0 after the first, and trailing 3-0 past the midpoint of the second period in the eventual 4-2 defeat.
Two of the Habs' goals came on breakaways; a third on an open net backdoor.
"The breakdowns that we gave them those plays, can’t happen," Patrice Bergeron stressed postgame. "And they’re going to make you pay if you’re not aware."
At 10:57 into the first, Tuukka Rask came out to play the puck, but it bobbled on him and Montreal forward Michael Bournival lifted Kevan Miller's stick while battling in the corner after it. The Canadiens were then able to rotate it from P.K. Subban up high to Thomas Vanek, who found Tomas Plekanec wide open back door at the bottom of the left circle.
The Bruins generated pressure not long after, and had a power-play opportunity, but as soon as Subban came out of the penalty box, he snuck behind the Bruins and scored on the breakaway less than four minutes after Plekanec's tally. The crowd rightfully erupted.
During the ensuing TV timeout, Gregory Campbell skated down the Bruins' bench, giving stick taps and words of encouragement. 'We've been here before' was the likely refrain.
In the second, just when it looked like the Bruins' pressure might finally pay off, Mike Weaver blocked Andrej Meszaros' point shot - one of the Habs' 29 blocks - and Daniel Briere hit Daniel Weise with the stretch pass through center ice for the breakaway.
"We know what to expect," said Meszaros. "They were blocking a lot of shots so we have to do a better job getting through and go to the net."
For all three Montreal goals, the Bruins cited poor coverage and lack of awareness.
"I think it’s everyone on the ice, and we've got to try to be a little bit more aware," said Thornton. "Our energy was good in here. I think Tuukka played well. I just think, you know, they did a good job of blocking shots and they did a good job of capitalizing on their chances and I really thought our effort was there — I just think a couple breakdowns, and this is a tough building to battle from behind in."
"I don’t think we played bad," echoed Rask, who had three allowed goals off the Habs' first 17 shots on the stat sheet. "We just made stupid mistakes which ended up costing us the game, so we have to get rid of those."
They wouldn't be the Bruins, though, if they didn't find a way to fight back.
Bergeron made it a two-goal game with 2:12 left in the second, off a tip-in from Torey Krug's shot following the center's own clean faceoff win.
Jarome Iginla tipped in Meszaros' point shot with just 2:16 to play in the third to narrow the deficit to 3-2 with an extra attacker on, but the Bruins couldn't launch another comeback.
Boston had one last chance with a faceoff in the Habs' zone, but Lars Eller put in the empty-netter with 2.8 left on the clock.
"We’re a very resilient team and you see that, but you can’t play yourself out of the hole every night, as much as we want to," said Thornton. "I think the positive is that it shows the character of this room again, that we don’t give up until the final buzzer."
"I think tonight, again, in the third period, we put a lot of pressure on and we had some chances, but they didn’t go in as much as we want."
Nine of Bruins' 11 goals thus far in the series have come in the third period. They've outshot Montreal 30-17 in the final frame through the three games.
It's no secret that they have to find a way to get a strong start, get the lead, and protect it.
"For sure, the first 20," said Captain Zdeno Chara, of the difference-maker in Game 3.
Getting a decent start is one thing, but turning that into goals is another. Whether it's the Bruins not cashing in on their chances, or getting too fancy with the puck, they know they need to simplify, and get back to what has made them successful.
"It’s tough when you have odd-man rushes and stuff like that, but we have to make sure we put the puck deep and go play in their zone because we’re pretty good when we’re playing in the offensive zone, especially five-on-five," said Meszaros.
"I think we can dominate over there and when you turn it over, it’s tough."
"It’s just playing our system," said Johnny Boychuk. "When we’re playing our system right, we’re getting a lot of pressure in their zone and not turning the puck over and keeping the play going in their zone."
"It can’t take us two periods to do that."
The Bruins could have used that to their favor on Tuesday night, had they played their game. Each team was awarded just one power play apiece. Both sides stay fairly disciplined.
"I just said it earlier, I'm not worried about the refs, I’m just more worried about we have to be better, but I like those games in playoffs when if it’s not blatant, then you kind of just let it go, and let the teams play and let them decides the game," said Thornton. "I liked that tonight."
They liked it, but they know they didn't take advantage of it - until the third period.
"Our team just, again, wasn’t good enough at the start to give ourselves a chance here," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "So we need to rebound here and make sure that we’re ready for the start of the game at the drop of the puck."
"Well, definitely not the effort that you want, and we got the result because of it," said Bergeron. "In the playoffs, it’s about not getting too low and too high, so right now, it’s about doing the adjustments and getting ready for Game 4. We need a lot more."
"It’s about bearing down and starting a lot earlier, to make it a game."
With what could always be a seven-game series, the Bruins are focused on a bounce-back performance on Thursday night.
"Exactly. Somebody would be up, somebody would be down 2-1, after being tied 1-1, Game 3," said Chara. "So, get ready for the next one. Put this one behind and get ready for the next one."
"There’s still a lot of hockey left. We have to come in and play desperate next game," said Boychuk.
"Yeah, it's a long series, you know, we're not going to hang our heads," said Rask, with not much frustration, just realization that there's no use dwelling on the fact that they lost, and it's not the outcome they wanted. "We'll regroup tomorrow, look at some video and have a positive attitude."
With midnight now long gone in Montreal, the Bruins have already slept away the first hours of their new day.
It's similar to after Game 1, when the Bruins found themselves down 1-0 in the series. Prior to the next game, I had asked Thornton about this 'one game at a time' attitude.
It sounds cliche to most, but it's tough to ingrain. Wins naturally feel great, and losses always hurt. How do you trick the mind and body into thinking and feeling something unnatural?
"I think it's been part of the culture for the last five or six years," Thornton had said. "I think we've learned along the way with a little bit of experience that dwelling on it isn't going to help solve anything, so I've said it a bunch, I think about it until midnight and then go to bed, and it's a new day the next day and you focus on the next game."
"We know as a group that - same during the season - whether we're on a winning streak, a losing streak, it's all about the next game, we don't really dwell on it; it just happens."
It's the same experience, and mentality, the Bruins will draw on for Game 4.
"We knew it was going to be a hard and long series - and we’re in for that," Bergeron said postgame.
"So we've just got to step up."