MONTREAL — The truth is that every playoff game is important. The stakes are always high, and every loss brings a team one game closer to elimination. Yet if Bruins fans can’t help but place a bit more emphasis on Game 4, it wouldn’t be so irrational.
Take a look at Wednesday night, and a game that put the Rangers in a real hole. As Jason Chimera tapped the game-winning goal past Henrik Lundqvist  in the second overtime, the Rangers had to have known that they blew it.
Leading 3-0 earlier in the game (sound familiar?) the Rangers let the Capitals get back into it, and three quick tallies in the third period suddenly made it 3-3.
To lose such a game (especially on your own ice) in that sort of fashion is a tough pill to swallow, but the Rangers’ No. 1 concern should be with the fact that they have spotted the Capitals a 3-1 lead in the series. A 3-1 deficit, while not insurmountable, is obviously far from ideal, and the Bruins, despite being able to return home for Game 5, should be viewing it as such. Game 4 is every bit as much a must-win as Monday’s Game 3 victory was.
Unless a team has won the first three, that’s generally the nature of Game 4. Thursday night, the rest of the series could begin to look a bit clearer. Easily the most interesting non-elimination game of a series, the Bruins can tie it with two of the three remaining games to be played at TD Garden, while the Habs are looking to put the Bruins just one loss away from failing to advance to the second round for the first time in three years.
A 3-1 deficit in a series is far from impossible to overcome (Bruins fans of course know that a 3-0 deficit in a series is not impossible to overcome thanks to the Flyers), and the Flyers weren’t the only team to do it last season. The other team to come back from being down three games to one? The very Canadiens that will host the B’s Thursday night. Two of eight teams in such a position last postseason were able to come back and win the series, though the Bruins would just as soon skip out on that discussion altogether by grabbing a road win in Game 4.
One could suggest the B’s have momentum on their side after taking Monday’s Game 3 by a 4-2 score. Claude Julien  wouldn’t agree with that logic, but if it’s something that is going to motivate the Bruins at the Bell Centre  Thursday, he’ll probably take it. Whether or not the B’s are feeling that momentum and whether the Habs are feeling any added pressure remains to be seen.
One thing the Bruins can expect on Thursday, aside from the possible return of Jeff Halpern to the lineup and the removal of Benoit Pouliot, is for the Habs to come out flying. Given the way they turned it on for the final 30 minutes of Game 3, the Habs have to know that if they can start better and take advantage of the early breaks (such as the two penalties the Bruins took in the first eight minutes of the game), they have a far better chance of playing the third period with a lead rather than bombarding Tim Thomas  with shots in a desperate attempt to tie it late.
If the Bruins can get a full game of what Thomas brought on Thursday night, even a great 60 minutes from the Habs might not matter. This has not been the prettiest series for the Vezina shoo-in, but he dominated late in Game 3, and if he can do so for all three periods Thursday, perhaps the series will return to Boston with the home team having yet to win through four games.
The Bell Centre is a loud and hostile environment. The Bruins were able to hang on to send the fans home hanging their heads Monday, but if they want to leave Montreal Thursday knowing they will return for a Game 6, they’ll need to block out the deafening boos for Zdeno Chara  and notch the ever-important Game 4 win. If they lose, it could be a hole too big to come back from. A win and they are suddenly favorites once again to win the series. They’ll need more than they brought Monday night, but if they get it, they can breathe just a bit easier.