"We're fine," said Boston coach Claude Julien, after his team convened at TD Garden for some morning meetings and media availability. "I think that is what hockey is about. It's a tight series and we understand that we didn't do a very good job from the second period on yesterday afternoon."
Actually in the minds of most Bruins, the final 40 minutes of play in Saturday's Game 4 was more terrible than just not very good.
It was hard for anyone to find many bright spots as Boston allowed five-straight goals – including three in a 3:58 span of the second period that erased a 3-0 lead for the Bruins – in a demoralizing 5-3 loss that interjected the Tampa Bay Lightning right back into this Eastern Conference Finals.
Now, Boston must find the reset button for Monday's Game 5 here at TD Garden as the winner will move to within one victory of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Bruins insist it won't be a problem, despite the fact that they are the first team to lose after taking a three-goal lead in the final two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2006 when Carolina turned a 3-0 deficit in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Edmonton into a 4-3 victory with a last-minute goal. Carolina, it should be noted, went on to win the Cup in seven games that year.
It should also be noted that Mark Recchi, an alternate captain with the Bruins, was a member of that 2006 Carolina team. He surely remembers how confident his team was after engineering that rally to steal Game 1 and see Edmonton's starting goalie Dwayne Roloson
– now, ironically, the starting goalie for Tampa Bay – leave the series with a knee injury.
Yet, it took six more hard-fought games before the Hurricanes could quell the Oilers and raise the Cup.
There are just three games left in this Eastern Conference Finals and two of them will be here at TD Garden.
"It's a best-of-three now," said Recchi, who knows a bit about postseason peaks and valleys after 179 postseason games. "We went down there, we kept home ice, so we did the job we had to do and you take the loss like yesterday and you can't worry about it. If you dwell on it, it's just going to screw you up."
And, if Boston knows anything, it knows that the margin for error is far too slim now. One misstep and the organization's dreams of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1990 could come crashing down almost as violently as their notions of winning game 2 in a cakewalk.
So, the Bruins understand they have to be better in several areas. Getting the team's first-line on track would certainly help.
In Game 4, Center David Krejci was on the ice for the final three Tampa Bay goals. The line, which also features Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, had just two shots on net despite each player seeing right around 18 minute of ice time. That's simply not good enough for what is supposed to be the team's main scoring threat.
"They're a great line and that they can be difference makers every night," Julien said Sunday afternoon. "I thought they played a great game in Game 3, gave us the early lead and they were solid throughout it all. They've been a great line for us all year and there's no doubt that in the playoffs sometimes there's a little more at stake so you're looking at that line a little closer than you normally would.
"But we expect them to be a great line for us every night, so do they. Now whether that happens or not is another thing. But what we want to see from them is them trying to be the best they can every night, and that's what we're hoping they're going to be tomorrow."
Lucic certainly had an off night in Game 3, managing just one shot and two hits. He did not play the straight-ahead physical game that paid tremendous dividends in Thursday's 2-0 victory in Game 3. He also made the turnover in Game 4 that set in motion Simon Gagne's game-winning goal.
His inconsistency throughout these playoffs, in fact, has been maddening. He has just 2 goals and 4 assists this postseason, his 6 points equaling the output of rookie Tyler Seguin in just 4 games.
Sunday, Lucic said he believes he and his teammates will be better in Monday's Game 5.
"We were doing things that were uncharacteristic (in Game 4)," Lucic said. "We weren't sharp, like we were the four periods prior. We got away from our game. We definitely sat back, and those are things you have to learn from, and address.
"When we're a determined group, we're a hard team to play against. I think yesterday, especially in the last two periods, we didn't play that determined style, and we were an easy team to play against."
Julien also believes his team will be better. He has witnessed Boston turn negatives into positives throughout this postseason. Remember, this was a team that last the opening two games at home in the first round and still beat Montreal in seven games.
This is also a team that got severely outplayed by Philadelphia after the first period of Game 2 in the last round and still displayed the mental toughness to hang on and win in OT, setting the stage for a stunning sweep of the defending Eastern Conference champions.
"I think everybody understands what we did wrong because we have certainly addressed it," Julien said. "Now, it's time to turn the page and correct those things and move on. We just have to be focused on tomorrow and making sure that what we did in the first period (Saturday) is what we have to do for three periods (Monday)."
Author: Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Senior Managing Editor