Cam Neely stood up, grabbed a water bottle, and fired it into the wall.
It was a fittingly frustrated response from the Bruins president. Not only were the Bruins playing some of their weakest hockey of an otherwise sparkling playoff run, officials missed a call coach Bruce Cassidy would later term “egregious” and “blatant” . . . and the dagger of a goal was in the back of the net.
Moments after Tyler Bozak slew footed Noel Acciari, sending him to the locker room with a suspected concussion, David Perron scored at 10:36 of the third period Thursday night. It was the critical sequence in a 2-1 loss in Game 5, which put the Bruins on the brink of summer.
“I think we all had the same opinion about it,” said Patrice Bergeron, who along with his high-end linemates continue to be stifled by the Blues. “I don’t need to expand more than it is what it is, you know?”
They are now well aware: The Stanley Cup Final could end Sunday in St. Louis. The Blues, who lost Game 3 of the last round in overtime on a non-call hand pass, will see Thursday’s game as karmic retribution. They are one win away from raising the Cup for the first time.
The Bruins will have to push it to a Game 7, which has not been done in the Cup Final since they broke the Canucks’ hearts in 2011. Should Boston win Sunday, the final game of the season will be Wednesday.
By then, the Bruins hope they will have found their finishing touch. That was clearly part of Neely’s frustration, when he fired his lefty fastball (on his 54th birthday, no less). This club’s killer power play, searing opponents at more than 34 percent this postseason, went 0 for 3. They were roasted at the faceoff dot (41 percent) and fired 65 times toward rookie netminder Jordan Binnington, who made a stellar 38 saves on 39 shots on goal.
“I think our guys were more frustrated we weren’t able to get the lead, more than worrying about what was called and what wasn’t,” Cassidy said. “Other than the other obvious one that results in a goal. It’s a little different animal.”
Cassidy, who scratched veteran David Backes and went with seven defensemen to protect his ailing D corps, threw his lines in a blender and came up mostly dry. Their most effective stretch of the game came after Jake DeBrusk scored Boston’s only goal, with 6:28 to go. On a delayed call — Torey Krug took a stick up high, and stuck with the play — DeBrusk finished a one-timer from the circle, off a pass from Krug.
That came some three minutes after Perron’s goal, a centering pass that squirted through Tuukka Rask (19 saves) as Acciari, who hit the back of his head, was on one knee, asking the official why he missed the call.
The boos after that weren’t the loudest sound heard Thursday night. The pregame introduction brought a blast of ear-splitting energy, a chorus of 17,565 screams, as loud as this building has ever been.
By the end of the second period, the thunder from the introduction of Zdeno Chara had rumbled away, and the noise here registered little more than a ripple.
The Bruins were down, 1-0, on a Ryan O’Reilly goal, and the Blues starting to win the races they had no chance of winning when the home team was so fired up at the start.
Chara’s return from a likely broken jaw lifted the Bruins’ spirits to the ceiling, making their legs faster, shots harder, and bodychecks more furious. Boston outshot St. Louis, 17-8, in the opening 20, but Binnington kept it a scoreless game. He also got lucky when Brad Marchand hit the post off a slick setup from David Pastrnak. The shots were 11-2 Boston early on, then 13-4, then 15-5, and Binnington was on his way to stealing one.
Rask, not as busy in his cage, slid post-to-post to deny a Perron one-timer on the Bruins’ only penalty kill.
When O’Reilly gave the Blues a lead 55 seconds into the second period, he victimized Chara and Charlie McAvoy.
Both Bruins defensemen were caught chasing Zach Sanford, who sent a nifty backhand feed to O’Reilly in front. The St. Louis center, building his Conn Smythe Trophy case (three goals in the last two games), beat Rask with a forehand-backhand deke and a shovel over his glove.
In the dying seconds of the second, with Krug and Oskar Sundqvist wrestling and both players expecting a holding call that never came, David Krejci slid into the goalmouth and in front of an Alex Pietrangelo shot, which was bound for an empty cage and a 2-0 lead, and did his best Michael Ryder impersonation.
Instead of a kick save, Krejci took the puck off the chest.
It was a spectacular and timely play by a Bruins forward — one of too few on the evening.
When Alexander Steen caught Krejci without the puck 3:09 into the third, drawing an interference penalty, the Bruins’ power play was desperate to take advantage of one of the few calls they got all evening.
But the Bruins went to 0 for 3 on the power play, and if the fans weren’t booing, they were groaning. It was as if the Chara celebration was a week ago.
This weekend, St. Louis could host a party 52 years in the making.
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports