BOSTON (CBS) — In sports, there are dramatic finishes, shocking plays and unbelievable swings of emotion. And then, there is what took place Monday night on TD Garden ice.
The Boston Bruins had fought valiantly to earn a 2-1 lead in Game 6, their minds set on flying to Chicago on Tuesday for a winner-takes-all Game 7 on Wednesday. It was all there, and the plans were made … except the Blackhawks didn’t feel like playing along.
With goaltender Corey Crawford on the bench, Jonathan Toews, the captain, handled a bouncing puck along the goal line and sent a dart of a pass right through the crease and onto the tape of Bryan Bickell, who deposited the puck into the net to tie the game and silence the home crowd with just 1:16 left in the third period.
The goal was no doubt a disappointment for the Bruins, but still, an overtime period would not be the end of the world. If only they could have gotten there.
With the 17,000-plus fans in the building trying to rally the Bruins, the Blackhawks wasted no time in getting the puck deep into the Bruins’ end of the ice. Tuukka Rask kicked a 50-foot shot into the corner, but Marcus Kruger was the first player on it. He dished a pass back to the blue line, Johnny Oduya ripped a slap shot, and Michael Frolik deflected the puck on its way toward net. The Bruins were granted a brief break, with the puck beating Rask but catching the post. However, Dave Bolland battled through the body of Johnny Boychuk to direct the loose puck into the vacated net, giving the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead with just 58.3 seconds left on the clock.
And in the span of just 17 seconds, the Stanley Cup was won and lost.
“You feel like you have the game, playing at home, you got a lead, and then everything goes wrong,” a dejected David Krejci said 30 minutes after the loss, still in his full equipment, quietly speaking while hunched over at his locker stall. “One thing led to another, before you know it, it’s in the net. And it sucks. We knew it’s still a tied hockey game, but that goal just hurt … it just hurt too much. And we just couldn’t recover. They got the third basically a few seconds after.
“It just felt like we had it,” Krejci said. “We were going to Chicago for Game 7, and you never know what can happen. And then all of a sudden, it felt awful. Just an awful feeling.”
Rask, who deserved better for his effort all postseason long, said his mind was on the Bruins putting the game away, before everything came crashing down.
“It’s shocking,” said Rask. “You think you have things under control. We killed a big penalty there. We were thinking, ‘Oh, we’re just going to keep it tight and score maybe an empty-netter.’ And then, all of the sudden, they score a goal. … It’s obviously shocking to get scored on like that when you think everything is under control. It’s just a tough play. They shot the puck from the point — deflection, post, rebound, goal. A lot of times it happens like that where a team scores a goal, they get energy from it, and the other team is standing still. That’s what happened to us.”
Given that the same building hosted the Bruins’ own miraculous comeback earlier this postseason — a three-goal third-period in Game 7 against Toronto — the Blackhawks’ late surge should not have been altogether shocking. Still, the wild nature of sports found another way to throw everyone — players, coaches, fans and media — for a loop.
“I’ve never felt anything like this,” Tyler Seguin said. “I’ve never cried for as long as I’ve known until tonight. It sucks, but I love the guys in this locker room”
The lasting effects of the loss are unknown at this point. To be sure, there are positives to making it this far in the playoffs. It means the Bruins were the best team in the Eastern Conference, and it means they have the right makeup to contend for championships. The Blackhawks are certainly worthy champions themselves, but this series could have gone either way, as the final score of 17-15 over six games indicates.
But for now, the Bruins have this loss to deal with. The missed opportunities — Kaspars Daugavins with an empty net in triple overtime in Game 1 and Chris Kelly in the crease in Game 4 chief among them — stand out first and foremost in their own heads, and they’ll have a short summer before they’re tasked with once again hitting the ice in hopes of making it to this point again.
The Bruins hit the ice for Game 6 just hoping to earn a shot at glory in Game 7, and they nearly finished the job. Yet it all faded away in a chaotic stretch of just 17 seconds, leaving Boston in a state of shock that won’t wear off any time soon.