BOSTON — In the end, the decision by Lightning coach Guy Boucher to sit goaltender Dwayne Roloson and give Mike Smith his first career playoff start was not the focal point of Monday night's game.
"Smitty was fine," center Steven Stamkos said. "He made the saves he had to. That's not the reason we lost."
No, Tampa Bay fell 3-1 at TD Garden in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final because it did not capitalize when it had the Bruins on the ropes. It failed on four power plays, continuing a trend that has dogged it throughout this series.
And it did not make life nearly difficult enough for Boston goaltender Tim Thomas, who was on top of his game with 33 saves as Tampa Bay outshot Boston 34-20.
"We definitely had a chance to win this game," Smith said.
Instead, the Bruins had three unanswered goals — Nathan Horton and Brad Marchand in the second period and Rich Peverley an empty-netter in the third — to put Tampa Bay down three games to two in the best-of-seven series and on the brink of elimination.
The Lightning has been in this position before. It was down three games to one against the Penguins before coming back to win the East quarterfinal in seven games.
"So, we're in a one-game better position than in the Pittsburgh series," Stamkos said. "We have a great opportunity to win the game."
It might have to do it without Sean Bergenheim, who leads the playoffs with nine goals but was lost after the first period to what is believed a lower-body injury after he was checked by Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg.
That is a huge loss, especially in the context of how the Lightning struggled to add a second goal after Simon Gagne scored 1:09 into the game at the end of a two-on-one with Stamkos.
But despite a 14-4 advantage in shots in the first period, Tampa Bay could not beat Thomas again. The power play was especially disappointing with just four shots in the game to fall to 2-for-18 in the series.
The first power-play unit, especially, with Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Stamkos, had a rough time.
"We were very poised with the puck," Boucher said of the first period. "We played really good and should have had probably one or two other goals. But I think what happened with our power play was we got a little too cute.
"We were trying to make too many passes, and we didn't have too much setup time," Stamkos said. "We didn't get enough shots. Thomas made some nice saves, but we didn't challenge him the way we did in (Game 4, a 5-2 Tampa Bay win). We didn't do a good enough job of getting screens, either."
When Thomas was called upon, he was outstanding, especially on a lights-out save on Steve Downie 9:20 into the third period when he dived to his right and got his stick blade on a shot from the left post to preserve Boston's 2-1 advantage.
"It was a momentum changer," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. "Having that save made a huge difference."
So did Horton's big blast 4:24 into the second that cleanly beat Smith to make the score 1-1.
"Horton got a pretty good shot on me," Smith said. "I think I could have gotten a better push across, but it was a tough play."
Smith had no chance on Marchand's goal with 4:04 left in the second that came from in-close off a perfect feed from Bergeron and with St. Louis on top of him.
"I think that really gave us some confidence," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I felt our team tightened up in the first period. When we scored that goal, it kind of loosened our guys up a little bit."
And put them one win from the Stanley Cup final.