BOSTON -- It felt like they were on top of the world, on their way to the Stanley Cup, about to cement a destiny and a legacy.
The Boston Bruins had just beaten the St. Louis Blues by five goals in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, and the ending seemed all but written.
But that was then. Then feels like a long time ago.
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Now, the Bruins are one loss away from watching the Blues celebrate the first Stanley Cup championship in their history in Game 6 at Enterprise Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
It has been a stunning turnaround.
Since the Bruins won Game 3, the Blues have taken the next two, including a 2-1 win on Thursday at TD Garden in Game 5 to go up 3-2 in the best-of-7 series. The Bruins have seen their best players and their power play go cold. They have watched their captain be seriously injured in Game 4 and return in Game 5 to a hero's welcome -- and still have not been able to rediscover a game that once looked unbeatable.
They know that reclaiming their place in this series will not be easy. But they also know that there is only one way to attack the task ahead, only one way to look at the position they've put themselves in over the past two games.
"Recognizing that we've been in this position, even in this playoffs, is something big that we can do," defenseman Brandon Carlo said, noting that the Bruins had been down 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs heading back to Toronto in the Eastern Conference First Round. "We know what we have ahead of us. We know it's not going to be an easy task, but we believe in everybody in this room from the coaching staff down. We need to make this happen."
Video: STL@BOS, Gm5: Cassidy on dropping Game 5 to Blues
But that doesn't mean that they can keep playing the way that they did, especially in Game 5.
Though the Bruins outshot the Blues 17-8 in the first period and 39-21 in the game, they could not break through against goalie Jordan Binnington. They could not convert on any of their three power plays, after going 0-for-2 on the power play in Game 4, a dramatic difference from Game 3, in which they went 4-for-4 in that situation.
Any frustration that the Bruins had over their own play -- and that was significant -- was compounded by a call that they believed should have been made before David Perron scored what became the game-winning goal at 10:36 of the third period.
Tyler Bozak upended Noel Acciari, though the forward later said that he was fine. But play was not stopped after the hit, and then Perron scored.
"It had a big effect on the game," Cassidy said of the non-call.
Video: The Bruins fail to move on after a non-penalty call
The Bruins had already been down 1-0 after Ryan O'Reilly's goal 55 seconds into the second period, on a pretty through-the-legs feed from Zach Sanford. Boston, meanwhile, did not convert on Binnington until 13:32 of the third period, when Jake DeBrusk scored on a Torey Krug pass for his first goal since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes.
But the Bruins could get no closer.
"We thought we got screwed, but you've got to keep playing," Cassidy said. "We did. We scored the next goal. Gave ourselves a chance to win. We tried to rally around that."
They had the chance. They couldn't take it. And so they left the ice at TD Garden knowing that it could be the final time they play at home this season, knowing that their season could end in St. Louis.
So focus turns to Game 6. It turns to the opportunity the Bruins still have ahead of them, the ways in which they need to fix what ails them, the ways in which they haven't done enough.
Video: What Chara's start means for the Bruins defense
"We've got to come out and set the tone early in the next game," Carlo said. "Overall, I think that's with our forecheck, with being on top of their guys, good gap control, everything. Be right on top of them. Show them we're there to play.
"We're not going to back down in any way. Just play the way that we can."
It's what the Bruins have done throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season, against the Maple Leafs, against the Columbus Blue Jackets, against the Hurricanes and, until the past two games, against the Blues. They have been through this before, have shown that they are not cowed by the moment.
They remember what it felt like in Game 3, how close the Cup seemed. They remember how they felt in Game 6 against the Maple Leafs, how close they were to seeing their season end.
"We know what it takes to win and go into a hostile environment, Game 6, and come out with a win," Acciari said. "Win or go home. We all know that."