BOSTON -- Welcome to Game 5.
The puck drops Monday night as the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning continue the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden. The series is knotted at two games apiece and the Bruins need to win on home ice after the Lightning gained momentum with a come-from-behind victory in Game 4 on Saturday at St. Pete Times Forum.
This is exactly how most everyone thought this series would play out. The teams are evenly matched, and as things progress it's only going to get more interesting -- a lot more interesting.
The Bruins had a golden opportunity to take a commanding series lead in Game 4, but Boston imploded and Tampa erased a three-goal deficit and mounted a 5-3 victory. It was the kind of game that could give the Lightning momentum.
After Saturday's game, the Bruins were saying all the right things. The final buzzer sounded and Boston already forgot about this devastating loss and began to focus on Game 5.
The Bruins returned home and held an optional skate Sunday afternoon at the Garden, and afterward coach Claude Julien said the team is focused and ready despite Saturday's loss.
"We're fine. This is what hockey's all about," Julien said. "It's a tight series and we understand that we didn't do a very good job from the second period on [in Game 4]. You have to think about what you need to do [Monday] to be able to bounce back. And that's all we're thinking about right now.
"You make corrections. You make adjustments and you do what you have to do. But when you're this far into the playoffs, you certainly don't let the mental part of the game get to you."
The series essentially comes down to this game because the Bruins do not want to return to Tampa trailing by a game. The consensus around the hockey world was these teams would push each other to the brink and play seven games. The series definitely has that feel to it, and the Bruins need to respond in a big way in Game 5.
The Bruins became overly confident with a three-goal lead in Game 4 and it came back to bite them. This time of the season every game is a must win, but Monday's game actually is a must win for Boston.
"I just need us to be ready and focused," Julien said. "I think everybody understands what we did wrong because we've certainly addressed it. Now it's time to turn the page and correct those things and move on.
"You make minor adjustments, but you don't change your system and you don't change your style of play. So we just have to be focused on [Monday] and making sure that what we did in the first period of [Game 4] is what we have to do for three periods."
The Bruins' complacency in Game 4 could serve as a solid reminder not to get too confident, though the Bruins should have learned from past experiences that no lead is safe during the Stanley Cup playoffs. When you have an opportunity to beat an opponent, as the Bruins did on Saturday, you need to finish the job.
After the Bruins' loss in Game 4, goaltender Tim Thomas made a harmless statement, saying he was confident enough in his teammates that they could win this series and advance to the Stanley Cup finals. The Lightning is using that as bulletin board material and motivation as this series continues.
"I heard about that. Well, we heard that we were easy to play before the last game. I guess we should have stayed home," Tampa coach Guy Boucher said. "You know, their people are allowed to think what they think and we're not going to pay attention to that. Hopefully our players are staying focused and that's what we're focusing on."
Before the Bruins or Lightning can even begin to think about the fact that each is just two wins from the Stalney Cup finals, they need to concentrate on Game 5. This game will determine momentum. Currently Tampa has it. Boston wants it back.
Welcome to Game 5.
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.