BOSTON -- There is at least one consolation for Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy: When he wakes up on Wednesday, a breather for the Bruins after back-to-back games and back-to-back losses, his team will still be in contention for a Stanley Cup Playoff berth.
"I don't think I'm going to wake up tomorrow and see us eliminated," Cassidy said. "So we're going to go back to work on Thursday against Tampa. We're going to keep playing well and keep playing hard. We're going to reinforce the positive."
But it is also true -- and this probably isn't the positive he wants reinforced -- that the postseason chances for the Bruins are more tenuous than they were last week, or this weekend, or even Monday night.
The Bruins have fallen back, with consecutive losses to the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and, on Tuesday, 3-2 to the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden. They are six points behind the Senators, who have one game in hand, and one point ahead of the Maple Leafs, who have two in hand.
That puts the Bruins in danger of dropping out of the third spot in the Atlantic Division, where they would face the Senators in the playoffs, and Ottawa has beaten Boston in both meetings this season. That could mean a first-round matchup with the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference, currently the Washington Capitals.
But that is hardly the worst-case scenario.
No, that is what has happened for the past two seasons for the Bruins, falling out of the playoff race at the last second - last season, in the final game, with a loss to the Senators, and in 2014-15 with losses in their final three games.
The New York Islanders, who have two games in hand on the Bruins, are four points back. The Tampa Bay Lightning, who come to TD Garden on Thursday, are five back with one in hand. There are ways for that scenario to happen again.
Video: Turris, Anderson lead Sens past Bruins, 3-2
The past two seasons have left scars that could trip the Bruins up again. Instead, the team seems determined that this year will not be the same.
"Haven't thought about it. Haven't talked about it," said defenseman Torey Krug, who scored his seventh goal of the season 17 seconds into the third period to tie the game on the power play. "It's a different feeling this year. It's not going to happen. I know we have a lot of pride in this room, the guys that have been through it. There's no other option except making sure we stay on course and take care and do our jobs."
That makes the mindset on Thursday very clear. As Krug said, "There's no other option except winning that game."
It's the position they have put themselves in.
"I know there's proud guys in the room and they're upset, disappointed, frustrated, whatever word, that we didn't get points [Monday] night and [Tuesday]," Cassidy said. "But we're playing the right way for the most part. We've just got to string it together for 60 minutes. We're playing good teams."
For the Senators, it was nearly as important a game. They had come in with their own four-game losing streak, including two straight to the Montreal Canadiens over the weekend. That is now over, helped by a number of stellar saves by goaltender Craig Anderson (34-of-36) and a tiebreaking goal by Kyle Turris at 4:04 of the third period, his second of the game. With the win, the Senators were able to take advantage of the Canadiens' overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings and close within three points of first-place Montreal.
It was a good night for Ottawa. It was not a good night for the home team.
Video: OTT@BOS: Turris tips home his second goal of the game
The Bruins said all the right things about their mindset, how the negative feelings and sense of foreboding is not there, how this team is not those teams. Of course, they said many of the same things last season about the season before.
"You've got to learn from your previous mistakes and seasons," goaltender Tuukka Rask said. "Definitely don't want to repeat them. The only thing we can do now is stay mentally strong, stay with it, and go out there and play. Obviously things are not going to take care of themselves. We have to work for it."
There are nine guaranteed games left for the Bruins this season. Seven are at home. Four are against teams that currently hold down postseason spots. That sets up well for the Bruins, for their playoff hopes, for breaking the two-season stretch of going home early. But to get there, the Bruins need to reverse the trend of late, to find ways to win instead of letting games slip away, to figure out how to truly make this season different than the past two.
"Every year writes its own story," Cassidy said. "There's a lot of guys in that room that weren't here last year, including myself. So we'd like to write our own story."