Momentum was finally swaying the Bruins way.
They were coming off a pair of convincing home wins, tying their best-of-seven series with the Carolina Hurricanes at two.
Then, shortly before Tuesday’s Game 5, Charlie McAvoy landed in Carolina, clearing COVID protocol after missing Game 4.
The Bruins started Game 5 off forcing Hurricanes’ goalie Antti Raanta to make several difficult saves.
However, nothing to show for it.
All that momentum the Bruins created, the added spark by McAvoy’s unexpected return, soon, none of it mattered.
With the lighting of a single home team goal light, the momentum, the spark, all of it was gone.
For the fifth time in the series, Carolina struck first, this time Jacob Slavin squeezing one past Jeremy Swayman on a shot that Swayman needs to save.
Before the Bruins could generate any sort of response, series villain Tony DeAngelo struck on the power play and the Bruins were in a 2-0 hole on the road in Carolina.
"I think the second goal goes in off Charlie, it's a tough screen. The first one, that's what we talk about, timely saves. I mean, they got a few early on. We needed that one,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said.
It was another frustrating night for the Bruins in Carolina and now, with their third loss of the series their season is on the line.
“They're a good team. You can't discredit them. They play extremely hard, they play fast, “Brad Marchand said of the Hurricanes. “We knew it was gonna be a tough series. They're a great team. They're competing hard out there, got to give them some credit."
Tuesday’s Game 5 looked similar to the Bruins two prior losses in the series: a deficit, a parade to the penalty box, Carolina taking advantage of getting the last change and the Bruins offense being shut down.
With the series shifting back to Boston and TD Garden for Game 6, the Bruins hope to mirror the success they had on home ice in Game 3 and Game 4.
“So far, it’s been a homer series. We’d like to continue that for now. The Garden has been good to us in this series, so I think our guys will be obviously motivated,” Cassidy said. “They need to be motivated to play. Because, if we don’t play well, that’s it. It’s over.”
In all three losses, the Bruins came out playing well, certainly well enough to earn a lead. But from the lack of finish, to breakdowns in their own end, starting in what Cassidy often calls "on time," hasn't turned into success.
“Not enough up and down the lineup,” Cassidy said. “We're going to need a little bit more, whether it's working hard to keep the puck out of the net, which we did up in Boston a lot better or blocking shots, finishing checks so guys can't join the rush.”
The Bruins will turn back to Swayman in Game 6 in what will be his fourth consecutive start of the series.
I thought Swayman settled in nicely after the first goal, making some big saves to keep the Bruins in the game until the breakdowns in front of him were too difficult to overcome.
“He gave us a chance after that (first goal). There was a stretch we weren’t very good in front of him. Mismanaged some pucks, Cassidy said. “He made some timely saves to give us a chance to stay in it. I’m certainly not putting this on Jeremy.”
The Bruins will likely have some lineup changes on Thursday as Hampus Lindholm is expected to return.
"I anticipate he'll play. I can probably give you a better, more definitive answer in the morning (Thursday), but he should be good to go,” Cassidy said.
It will be interesting to see who Lindholm replaces should he be cleared to return. Mike Reilly has played well since entering the lineup and deserves another crack at it in Game 6.
While Cassidy addressed what Matt Grzelcyk brings to the table, his struggles in the series have been evident, increasing the chances he’s the scratch in Game 6.
"Forbort and Clifton, for what they've been asked to do, they have delivered and they've done their part. That’s something we'll talk about with Lindholm going in because Lindholm adds some elements that Grzelcyk and Reilly bring where Forbort brings something unique," Cassidy said.
"We want to make sure we have that in our lineup, so that will be a decision we're going to have to make.”
With their season now on the line, every decision made on and off the ice is crucial.