BOSTON — The Bruins got repeated reminders all season long that 60-minute efforts are of the utmost importance and that a game is never over until the final horn sounds.
Their final reminder of those facts ended their season Monday night, with the Chicago Blackhawks taking the Stanley Cup around the TD Garden ice.
With what seemed like the snap of a finger, it was all over for the Bruins, victims of one of the most memorable finishes in Stanley Cup history. All it took was 17 seconds in the final two minutes of the third period for the Blackhawks to tie it up and eventually win the game and the Cup.
The Bruins looked to be right where they wanted to be. Moments before, Milan Lucic had broken a 1-1 tie with a goal that sent the Garden into an absolute frenzy. Not long after that, the Bruins killed off a pivotal penalty even with noted penalty killers Chris Kelly (in the box serving the penalty) and Patrice Bergeron (battling myriad injuries) being limited.
It was pandemonium inside the Garden, where Bruins fans knew they were seeing the last of their team regardless of the outcome, with a Game 7 all but a certainty. That’s when disaster struck.
With just a 1:16 to play, Bryan Bickell tied the game after a gorgeous pass into the slot from Jonathan Toews. Just 17 seconds later, Dave Bolland etched his name into Chicago sports history when he jammed home a puck that hit a post and bounced right to him, the latest in a string of bad bounces for Boston.
It was not unlike the Bruins’ comeback win in Game 7 against Toronto, which was, perhaps, the biggest reason they were still playing into Game 6 of the Cup Final.
“Yeah, well, we’ve done it to somebody else, so we got to feel how it feels being on the other side,” goalie Tuukka Rask said. “This season we were known to lose a couple of leads. Even in the regular season we were up by goals, and we lost the games. I guess that sums it up pretty good.
“I just said to somebody that we did it to Toronto, so I guess we get a taste of our own medicine here. It sucks.”
It’s one thing to lose the Stanley Cup Final in a sixth game by a score of 3-1 or something like that, a margin and finish that seems so much more humane. This felt cruel, almost undeserved, and the Bruins’ reaction afterward made that stand out even more.
The Bruins, who had stood stone-faced and methodically answered questions all postseason long with a clear purpose in mind, looked like dejected children who had just lost their best friend in the dressing room after Game 6. David Krejci sat in front of his locker with his jersey, pants and socks all still on, staring into nothing, trying to make sense of what had just happened.
“You feel like you’re playing the game at home, you have the lead and then everything goes wrong,” Krejci muttered. “One thing led to another, and before you know it, it’s in the net. It sucked.
“It felt like we had it, we were going to Chicago for Game 7 and you never know what can happen, and all of a sudden it felt awful. Just an awful feeling.”
It’s a stinging feeling, no doubt, one the Bruins won’t soon forget. Losing a Stanley Cup Final can stay with you a long time. To lose it like Boston did, well, that’s not going away anytime soon.
“It’s a bad feeling,” defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “Bad, like an awful feeling. You can’t really describe it. As a player it’s probably one of the worst feelings you can get when you are up by one goal with a minute and 20 left and somehow you lose the game. It’s just like a total shock.”
“I mean, you are going to remember forever. You remember winning it, but I think you remember losing it a little bit more, now that we have had that happen.”
The Bruins will be back — there’s not much denying that. They’re a resilient bunch, a team whose core is still intact and likely will be for some time. They may even use this as motivation. But deep down, they know they won’t ever forget this feeling.