The Lightning were hoping a positive start to their four-game home stand would propel them to the win streak they needed to get back in the playoff chase.
But the inconsistent play that has plagued the Lightning throughout the season continued to be a problem in a 4-3 loss to the Bruins.
The Lightning are running out of time to gain ground in the standings. With 31 games left in the regular season, the Bolts are eight points back of the Bruins for third place in the Atlantic and trail Philadelphia, which owns the second wild card currently, by six.
Tampa Bay will try to begin its push Thursday when it hosts another division rival in Ottawa. But before looking ahead to the Senators, let's recap what went wrong Tuesday in 3 Things we learned from a loss to the Bruins.
Video: BOS@TBL: Killorn rifles home first goal of the game
1. THE BACKBREAKER
Despite getting outshot 16-4 in the second period, the Lightning were still level with the Bruins 1-1 as the closing seconds ticked off the clock. The Bolts desperately needed the intermission to regroup after owning much of the first period but playing flat in the second.
David Krejci, however, changed the tide of the game right before the horn, carving out an opening in the slot and firing over Ben Bishop's glove with 0.9 seconds remaining in the period to give Boston its first lead at 2-1.
Had the Lightning been able to escape the second with the score level, chances are they get at least a point out of Tuesday's game.
Instead, they were left to wonder "what if" yet again in a season filled with missed opportunities.
"That's tough," Lightning forward Alex Killorn said. "We came into the third period trying to forget about it. Whenever they score two quick goals like that, especially when you have the lead against a team, it's frustrating and it's really tough."
Killorn scored his second goal of the night 4:46 into the third period, but Boston responded with two more goals to bury the Lightning.
Video: Jon Cooper on Bolts inconsistent play
2. DISPARITY IN SHOTS
The Lightning were looking to set the tone for the remainder of the season in Tuesday's contest against Boston, hoping a strong showing would be a springboard to a season-turning winning streak.
The Bolts appeared to be a desperate team in the first period. They played with physicality against a team that has historically outmuscled them. They didn't allow the Bruins any quality scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes. And they owned an 8-4 advantage in shots entering the first intermission.
The Lightning played about as well as could be expected in the first period, but unfortunately didn't have any goals to show for it.
"That happens in hockey," Killorn said. "I don't think you look too much at the score if you are playing well, and you think throughout the game, it'll turn. But we didn't come out in the second period the way we did in the first."
The solid defensive play that had been a hallmark throughout much of the six-game road trip before the All-Star break and carried over into the first period versus Boston abandoned the Bolts in the second and third periods. Boston outshot Tampa Bay 16-4 in the second period and 15-9 in the third for a 31-13 advantage over the final two periods.
The Bruins ended up with 35 shots to Tampa Bay's 21, the Lightning's second-lowest shot output of the season.
"Well, how many games are we in? 50 games in? I guess not too mystified anymore," Cooper said when asked if he was mystified by the inconsistent play over the course of a game this season from his team. "It's become a regular occurrence. I don't know how many times I've got to say consistency. It's tough because you have such a strong first period, strong in the sense, it's not that we had a ton of scoring chances, but we gave up nothing. And then to give up the amount of scoring chances we did in the second and third.
"They go out there and change the way they play. You pat them on the back and say, 'good first period' and then they go out and not play so well. The other team's got something to do with it as well, but clearly we weren't the same team in the second and third. It's too bad."
Video: Johnson on controversial non-calls
3. MISSED CALLS RATTLE BOLTS
With the score still tied 1-1 in the second period and the Lightning trying to get back some momentum, Brad Marchand appeared to slew foot Anton Stralman behind the play, an infraction that went undetected.
Seconds later Stralman was whistled for tripping and sent to the penalty box.
"It's nowhere near the play," Stralman said of Marchand's dubious play. "I can't expect anybody to see it. It's tough, especially when we get the call the other way later on in the same shift. I don't think the game fell there, but it was a little adversity, I guess."
Just 13 seconds after Stralman's penalty, though, Matt Beleskey was sent to the box for boarding after he hit Cedric Paquette dangerously from behind, sending the Bolts center crashing hard head-first into the boards.
But despite the Bruins' wiping out their own power play, they still managed to find the back of the net soon after, Patrice Bergeron tipping Adam McQuaid's shot from the point past Bishop to get Boston on the board.
Less than two minutes later, it was 2-1 Boston after Krejci's late second period score.
The back-to-back questionable hits appeared to take the Lightning out of their game.
"We'd given up a few shots to that point, but we hadn't given up a ton of scoring chances or anything like that," Cooper said. "Then there's the hit on Paquette, and I thought that pushed it over the top. We didn't really answer after that, and then anytime you're going to give up a goal with under a second left in a period, you know what, now you're chasing the game a little bit. It was tough because, again, we hadn't given up a ton and just a couple plays like that seemed to rattle us a bit, and that was it."