By Joe Haggerty
TAMPA, Fla. The Bruins have been here before, and it wasnt even that long ago.
They carried a 3-2 edge over the Montreal Canadiens into Game 6 during in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but couldnt get the deal done in a 2-1 loss at the Bell Centre.
The story was similar here Wednesday night when the Bruins took a 3-2 lead into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Lightning but wound up losing, 5-4.
Anytime youre playing against a team thats fighting for their lives its always harder to win, especially when youre on the road in their building, said Brad Marchand. With the crowd and everything else, the crowd can get to you a little bit. That was a tough atmosphere . . . Both games against Montreal and against Tampa Bay were a couple of tough scenarios for us.
That Game 6 in Montreal was an eminently winnable one-goal affair that the Bruins couldn't capitalize on because of an avalanche of mistakes, frayed concentration, a stagnant power play, and multiple man-advantage situations for the Habs. It was a similar story in Game 6 against Tampa Bay.
Now the series heads back to TD Garden for the win-or-go-home matchup Friday night.
Weve had the experience of it," said coach Claude Julien. "We need to take the experience and utilize it again."
That experience also gave the B's a taste of the pressure they'll be facing Friday night. A first-round loss to Montreal would have been the Bruins' third consecutive postseason disappointment under Julien, and speculation was rampant that jobs -- Julien's certainly, but perhaps even general manager Peter Chiarelli's -- were hanging on the balance of that game.
"I think we had a lot of pressure on" against Montreal, Julien said.
Everyone is probably safe no matter what happens Friday night, since a berth in the Conference Finals is a fairly noteworth achievement. But the way this series has played out -- Bruins unable to hold a 3-0 lead in Game 4, unable to hold a 2-1 lead in Game 6 last night -- would still leave a sour taste if the B's are unable to close the deal in Game 7 on Friday.
Also disconcerting is the fact that we're now 17 games into this playoff run, and the problems the Bruins have had from the beginning have yet to be resolved. The Bs shot themselves in the foot again Wednesday night with a power play that -- despite scoring one goal -- only mustered five shots on net in five different chances, and similarly couldnt get it done one more time on the penalty kill despite shutting down Tampas PP 11 straight head times coming into the game.
"I thought tonight our guys competed fairly well, but those penalties ended up costing us," said Julien. "Our power play ended up costing us. We need to minimize that stuff and come out hard next game."
They also need to maximize their discipline. The Bruins were hit with too many avoidable penalties, leading to four Tampa Bay power plays . . . and the Lightning capitalized three times.
Now it's another elimination game.
This is it. This is a chance that many of us will not see for a long time, said David Krejci, who led the Bs with a hat trick Wednesday night. Its there for us, but weve got to go get it. Theyre not going to give it us."
The Bruins, need we remind you, are only 3-7 in elimination games under Julien. Still, they've proven theyre a different team this year. They've responded to challenging situations all season -- they shook off the Game 6 debacle and finished off the Canadiens in Game 7 -- and will need to summon that spirit and mental strength one more time against the Lightning.