TAMPA — While the Lightning celebrated, the Bruins searched for answers. While the Lightning breathed a sigh of relief, the Bruins just, well, sighed. While the Lightning rejoiced in tying the East final at two games, the Bruins lamented not taking a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Separated by a couple of hundred feet after Saturday's Game 4, the teams had different views of the Lightning's 5-3 victory. For Tampa Bay, it was about a comeback that might have saved the season. For the Bruins, it was the one that got away.
"Obviously, we're not happy," said Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, who scored twice. "It's frustrating."
After striking for three first-period goals, the Bruins were 40 minutes and a plane ride home from being able to wrap up the series Monday night in Boston. Instead, the Bruins limp home with their confidence shaken and still two wins shy of reaching their first Stanley Cup final since 1990.
"They took over," Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said. "They outplayed us. They started getting scoring chances, and we stopped getting scoring chances."
The result was three goals by the Lightning in a span of 3:58 that tied the score with 9:07 left in the second period.
"After they scored a few goals, we almost looked like we were paralyzed out there; just weren't reacting, weren't moving," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "And it just snowballed from there."
The Bruins never recovered.
The Lightning swarmed the Bruins to start the third, getting the winner from Simon Gagne at 6:54 before Marty St. Louis' empty-netter in the final minute sealed the game.
"When you're up, you almost sit back a bit," Bruins center Brad Marchand said. "You think that the game is over, and that's what we did. We thought we had them. We took it for granted."
That's what happened. So what happens now?
"We've seen it all (throughout) the playoffs," Bergeron said. "Momentum changes during a game and also during a series. So we're going back home and playing our game. We can't feel sorry for ourselves."
It did appear that not long after the game the Bruins were on the road to recovery from what you would believe is a devastating loss. Most players said they aren't expecting a hangover for Game 5 on Monday.
"No, because it is what it is. It's 2-2," Thomas said. "I don't know what the use of worrying about that would be, but I think the focus should be on winning the series."
Tom Jones can be reached at email@example.com.