Going into Tuesday night's Game 2, Tampa Bay was 8-0 in the playoffs when scoring first. They scored first and lost 6-5 as the Bruins mounted a five-goal second period, highlighted by Tyler Seguin's four-point night.
Heading into Saturday's Game 4, the Bruins were 7-0 when scoring first. They did, when Patrice Bergeron handled Victor Hedman's reverse-pass behind his own net and summarily deposited it between the legs of Dwayne Roloson.
Michael Ryder followed with a flukey goal that floated into the net when his attempted pass went awry, and Bergeron broke up a blue-line pass on Tampa's first power play of the game, raced down the ice and wristed a shot past Roloson.
In 18 minutes, Roloson had seen nine shots. Three of them went in. Roloson's night was over not long after it had begun; Mike Smith was coming in to play goaltender and the Bruins, to boot, were starting the second period on the power play after Steve Downie was penalized at the end of the first for roughing.
The Bruins were 6-0 when leading after one at all, much less when leading by three after one. That was when the wheels fell off.
With Downie in the box serving a ten-minute misconduct and Dana Tyrell having left the game after aggravating a lower-body injury, the Lightning were down to ten forwards for the first half of the period. It didn't matter.
Teddy Purcell went to work, scoring two quick goals, one off a Boston turnover and the other off of a vicious attack. Brad Marchand went to the box for high-sticking. Boston killed the penalty, but wasn't able to use it to generate any momentum, and Sean Bergenheim beat Thomas to the weak side not long later to tie it.
At the period's end, Nathan Horton took Downie into the boards, knocking the Tampa forward out for at least the rest of the game and possibly longer, pending the results of medical testing. The Lightning were now down to ten forwards for the rest of the game, but the adversity continued to propel the Bolts, as Simon Gagne scored the game-winner at 6:54 of the third and Martin St. Louis added an empty-netter for good measure to send the series back to Boston tied at two, instead of down 3-1 as maybe it should have been.
"It almost looked like we were paralyzed out there," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien.
"We got outworked," admitted a dejected Tim Thomas.
"We weren't executing at all," confessed Bergeron, who also added that Boston played a "perfect" first period.
The loss was especially painful for a Bruins team that came off what was arguably its best game of the season in game three, a 2-0 shutdown of Tampa's high-octane offense in which Boston was able to take advantage of what few mistakes Tampa made in the game.
But Guy Boucher has been praised for his ability to adjust, and adjust he did. After reverting from his usual 11-forward lineup in game three and using 12 attackers in his rotation (needing to put more pressure on the Bruins' defense was his reasoning), the extra man for the forecheck didn't do much of anything.
Saturday afternoon, it did. Boucher abandoned his trademark 1-3-1 forecheck, going back to the 2-2-1 that worked so well in game one.
And it worked so well in Game 4, too.
The Bolts weren't able to set up the forecheck in the first period, in part because their breakout was ugly and in another part because the Bruins' two-man forecheck was overwhelming. But Boucher said to everyone who was watching on Versus following game one that he'd make adjustments as they needed to be made, and he's been true to his word thus far.
But it wasn't all about the forecheck. Smith was strong if not superb once replacing Roloson, the second time in the series (game two) that he's been called upon and hasn't let a puck into his net. Still, while Roloson's struggled, Smith doesn't think that he's earned the starting role.
"It's one game. Rollie has got us this far and he's played outstanding in the playoffs," said Smith after the game. But his coach was less forthcoming about the situation.
"We're happy we just beat a terrific team and we're just happy that we were a lot harder to play against today. And Smitty was part of it, and Roloson is. It doesn't change the status," Boucher said after the game, cryptically endorsing Roloson, albeit without any sort of confidence.
This may be the most difficult adjustment that Boucher's had to make all postseason. If he gets it right, it may wind up deciding the series. If he gets it wrong, it may wind up deciding the seris.
And so, instead of putting their foot on Tampa's throats while Boston had them down, the Bruins and Bolts are once again deadlocked. It's now a best-of-three series.
Boston still has home ice. Tampa has a goaltending controversy.
And all the momentum they need.