Fast-forward to Friday night, and that elation quickly turned into disgust.
The Sabres set the tone with an early Adam Mair goal, which snuck past Tuukka Rask on a wraparound. It was atypical of Rask to let in such a soft one, but it proved to be typical of the way the rest of the night would go.
Literally from the opening faceoff, when Paul Gaustad offered a not-so-friendly shove to Patrice Bergeron, the Sabres overpowered the Bruins in terms of intensity and execution. All night, the puck never seemed to settle for the Bruins, and the Sabres made them pay for just about every mistake.
Even the Bruins were willing to admit that they didn't play as hard as they should have.
"We came out flat and they came out hard and desperate. We didn’t match that," Zdeno Chara told the Boston Herald. Patrice Bergeron, Blake Wheeler and Matt Hunwick all said essentially the same thing as well.
The negatives were obviously abundant on Friday night, but still, if you can put the 4-1 loss in the past, all hope is not lost heading into Game 6 on Monday.
The first positive can be found in the Bruins' third period. Though the players admitted they were outclassed for the first two periods, they seemed to be in agreement that they re-established themselves in the final 20 minutes. The numbers back them up, too, with the Bruins registering 21 shots on net in the third (they had just 14 in the first two periods combined). Johnny Boychuk finally got the Bruins on the board with a slapper from the blue line with 2:30 left in the game. It was Boychuk's first career playoff goal, and it took the shutout away from Miller.
For Boston fans, the next positive comes in the fact that the Bruins have home ice on their side, and the B's will have the chance to close out the series at the Garden. Of course, there's always the fear that the Sabres can pull off a repeat of the 2004 Canadiens, but the possibility of winning a series at home for the first time since 1999 and winning just their second playoff series of the decade should provide some motivation.
There's also the fact that with 2 seconds left on the clock, Chara decided enough was enough. The 6-foot-9 captain took exception to a harmless little stick check from Gaustad and jumped the Sabres forward. For 59 minutes and 58 seconds, the Bruins were bullied, but Chara put an
end to it. It was risky in that Chara could have been suspended if the league felt it was an egregious decision, but it was the right move in sending a message for Game 6.
If you keep digging, there's the special teams dominance that the Bruins have shown in all five games that can make you look forward to Monday night. With their fourth power-play goal of the series on Friday, the Bruins are now 4-for-17 on the man advantage. The 23.5 percent success rate is significantly better than the 16.6 percent rate the team posted in the regular season, and with a Marc Savard return looking more and more realistic, that number should only improve. On the other end, the Bruins' penalty kill has been perfect, surrendering zero goals on 16 Buffalo power plays.
Sure, the special teams numbers are nice, but really, the only positives that remain from the Game 5 loss are that it was just one game and that it's over. If the Bruins again come out flat in Game 6 and let the series head back to Buffalo for Game 7, then it should be safe for Bostonians to be in full-on panic mode. Until then, though, enjoy the weekend. The Bruins are coming home.