BOSTON - The Bruins wanted to play with the lead and draw strength from the energy of the fans in their home rink.
They hoped to play desperate and confident, with poise and self-control. Instead they fell behind early, looked overwhelmed and took a parade of penalties at key moments.
Instead of a series-clinching victory, the result was a 4-0 loss to the Flyers and a plane ride back to Philadelphia for Game 6 tomorrow night at the Wachovia Center.
"We just weren't playing well," said Bruins forward Mark Recchi. "We didn't come out good, we didn't come out well at all. They did and they deserved to get the lead and we were fighting an uphill battle after that."
And just like that, the Bruins, who had a stranglehold in the Eastern Conference semifinals going into Game 4, now are clinging to a 3-2 series lead.
Yes, they still have home-ice advantage, but with injuries mounting on both sides, two more games is not a chance they want to take.
"We'll make adjustments," Recchi said. "There are always adjustments to be made in a series, but the bottom line is if you're not desperate enough and they want it more than you do, they're going to win the game, and they did.
"They came in here and they wanted it and you have to give them a lot of credit. Now we have to go there and see if we can play the same way."
Sunday after practice, the Bruins talked about the importance of getting a lead and building on it. It didn't happen. Ville Leino got his stick on a Chris Pronger rebound and the Flyers took the lead 6:41 into the game. The Bruins weathered a 4-minute power play but did not draw momentum from that or the fact that Flyers goalie Brain Boucher left the game midway through the second with knee injuries.
Both Flyers defenseman Ryan Parent and Boston forward Miroslav Satan fell on top of Boucher while he was down in the crease after making a save. Michael Leighton came in for Boucher and then the Flyers struck again. Scott Hartnell, stationed at the side of the net, batted the puck out of the air and past Tuukka Rask 11:16 into the second; so much for playing with the lead.
Simon Gagne pushed the score to 4-0 on a second-period power play and an unassisted even-strength goal in the third.
Bruins coach Claude Julien credited the Flyers for making an adjustment to limit shots from the points, forcing his team to play from behind.
Boston put only 23 shots on Boucher and Leighton and never seriously tested Leighton, who had not played since March 16.
"They're certainly getting on our [defensemen] quickly," Julien said. "I think they respected the fact that we got some quality shots from there early in the series and they have taken that away from us. That's something we're going to have to look at and figure out.
"We definitely would like to have tested [Leighton] a lot more. We wanted to get some shots on him and that didn't happen. That's the part of the game we're talking about. If you're not winning the battles for the puck, you're not playing with it. We didn't create that many shots, and when you're being outworked you get frustrated and take penalties like you saw us do tonight."
After the game, Recchi and Milan Lucic stayed a long time in a mostly empty locker room and talked about Game 6.
"They have played great the last two games," Lucic said. "And we haven't played nearly up to par to win that fourth game. We've got to sharpen up.
"We dealt with falling behind all during the Buffalo series, but I don't know what it was tonight. We just couldn't get that goal. One went off my foot, there was the tip by [Miroslav Satan] that hit the post, another one went through the crease and maybe in the second another one went through the crease.
"We've just got to bear down when we get opportunities."