The lasting visual — as it typically is when the Stanley Cup Final comes to an end — will be of Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews taking the famed trophy from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
For the Boston Bruins, it’ll be a series of images, a B-roll of nightmares where a one-goal lead turned into 3-2 defeat in a matter of 17 seconds in the closing moments of Game 6 of the final at TD Garden on Monday night.
“Forever,” Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. “You are going to remember it forever. You remember winning it, but you remember losing it a little bit more.”
It slipped away so quickly. Both bruised teams looked to be headed on a plane bound for Chicago for a Game 7, which would have been Wednesday. Then Toews tossed the puck out front to Bryan Bickell, who slipped it past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.
Game tied 2-2 with 1:16 remaining in regulation, just as Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford was pulled for an extra attacker.
“It’s shocking,” Rask said. “You think you have things under control. We killed a big penalty there (near the end of the game). 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.”
The Bruins — who were looking to win their second Cup over the past three seasons — were toast off the ensuing face-off. Moments later, a Johnny Oduya slap shot pinged off the post and Dave Bolland directed the rebound into the net for the eventual game-winner with 59 seconds remaining.
“All of a sudden, it felt like you had so much weight (was) on your back,” Bruins forward David Krejci said. “You couldn’t move, couldn’t think, and just couldn’t get it done.”
The Bruins were on the other end against the Maple Leafs in the first round. The Leafs were up 4-1 midway through the third period — and ahead 4-3 with 51 seconds left in regulation — only to fall in overtime of Game 7.
The Blackhawks had a one-game cushion since they entered Game 6 of the best-of-seven series up 3-2. Bickell admitted he was all but certain they’d need it as the clock ticked down on Monday.
“We thought we were going into a Game 7,” Bickell said. “This is going to go down in history. This is unbelievable. To tie it up and the way we did. It says a lot about the character in the locker room. We never give up.”
Unfortunately for Bruins fans, this was history repeated — albeit not on hockey’s largest stage. Boston had a 3-0 lead in a series and also a 3-0 lead in Game 7 of second round of the playoffs in 2010 only to lose both advantages as the Philadelphia Flyers advanced. Coincidentally, the Flyers eventually lost to the Blackhawks in the finals.
Bruins coach Claude Julien, just as he did in 2010, addressed a sullen locker room.
“It was tough walking in that dressing room,” Julien said, “and seeing how disappointed everybody was. As I often say, there’s a lot of teams that would have loved to have been in our position tonight and getting that opportunity, and we’ve got to look at the positive.”
Julien didn’t make excuses for a beaten-up roster of players, including his best two-way forward Patrice Bergeron, who reportedly played through a broken rib. (Bergeron had to be taken to hospital in Game 5 for observation.) Forwards Nathan Horton (separated shoulder), veteran winger Jaromir Jagr and defenseman Zdeno Chara also were banged up.
The Blackhawks’ injuries included Toews, who, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, said had “his bell rung” in Game 5, where he missed the final period. Toews responded Monday with Chicago’s first goal that tied the game at 1-1 in the second period and added the game-tying assist.
Other than a gnarly mullet, Patrick Kane was seemingly healthy as he claimed the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. He had seven goals over the last eight games of the playoffs.
Blackhawks’ winger Marian Hossa said he had an injured disc in his back that pressed against a nerve and caused one of his feet to go numb. Bickell had a knee injury. Quenneville added that Michal Handzus had “everything wrong with him: wrist, knee, old age.”
None of that mattered after the ‘Hawks became the first team to come back from a goal down in the final two minutes to win in regulation of a Stanley Cup-clinching game. The pain became worth it once Toews grasped the Cup and began handing it down the line of teammates.
“I just had a good feeling about it,” Bolland said of the closing few minutes. “I don’t know why. I’ve been optimistic of this group all year. They never let me down.”