It did not end in redemption. It did not end hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Instead, it was an unfitting silent goodbye from the Eastern Conference bubble in Toronto at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In an eerily similar result to their second-round matchup in 2018, the Lightning dispatched the Bruins in five games — winning four consecutive games after losing the opener — including a 3-2 win in double overtime Monday night.
Victor Hedman notched the winner after firing a wrist shot past Jaroslav Halak (32 saves) with 5:50 left in the second overtime to eliminate the Bruins and send the Lightning back to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Bruins, once again, played from behind in Game 5. This time, they erased a pair of one-goal deficits to force overtime.
The stagnant Bruins fell victim to Ondrej Palat’s third goal of the playoffs in the early stages of the second period. But they found life later in the middle stanza on David Pastrnak’s power-play tally to even things up at 1-1.
The Bruins, who outshot the Lightning 47-35, put forth some good shifts and pressed for the go-ahead goal following Pastrnak’s tally. Yet, they found themselves chasing things again after Anthony Cirelli tipped a shot past Halak with under eight minutes left in regulation.
Boston responded again with 2:33 left when David Krejci took a fortunate bounce off a Tampa defender to net the equalizer. Yet, despite their numerous quality scoring chances on Andrei Vasileveskiy, the Bruins couldn’t extend their season as the Lightning escaped victorious on the backs of Hedman’s tally.
“We’re disappointed. We thought we were the better team tonight and we wanted to play on,” Bruce Cassidy said after the loss. “We’re disappointed it didn’t go better for us, no doubt. There will be some evaluation of players coaches, up and down, and that’s what any good organization will do once their season is done.”
Here’s what we learned after Boston’s heartbreaking season-ending loss.
Tampa’s elite outperformed Boston’s top guns
It’s rare that the top line is to blame for the Bruins, but they didn’t deliver when it mattered the most.
Yes, Brad Marchand and Pastrnak produced a few power play goals, but their production was too far in between.
Hedman, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point delivered in timely moments for the Lightning. That simply wasn’t the case on the other side of the ice.
Would this series have been closer if Tuukka Rask was in net? Probably. But the Bruins were deal those cards and didn’t make the most of them.
Instead, they seemed content rolling over at the first sign of adversity. They were one overtime goal away from taking a 2-0 series lead. Then, they crumbled after Tampa’s 7-1 drubbing in Game 3.
The Bruins only managed to score one five-on-five goal during the final three games of the series. Couple that with Halak’s drop in play from the first round, a slew of uncharacteristic turnovers and Pastrnak’s injury sustained against Carolina, and you end up eliminated in five games.
Paquette’s dirty hit on McAvoy
The Boston Bruins didn’t lose to Tampa Bay in five games because of officiating. But it is worth pointing out when the officials make a mistake.
Such was the case on Cedric Paquette’s hit from behind on Charlie McAvoy during the third period. Paquette doesn’t make a play on the puck and instead crumbles McAvoy — in a dangerous position — into the boards.
McAvoy spent a few minutes in the locker room after Paquette’s hit. He returned to the ice after a few minutes in the locker room.
Yet, for the second straight game, Paquette escaped discipline following a dirty hit. It could’ve changed the tide of the game and possibly McAvoy’s career if he was injured.
Is this the end of an era?
There is a lot to make of how the series played out against the Lightning.
Cassidy made some questionable lineup decisions in Games 3 and 4. Halak was shaky at times and provided the Lightning with momentum at crucial moments. Pastrnak wasn’t himself and appeared hobbled by an injury.
Above all, the Bruins, without Rask, didn’t play well for long enough stretches against one of the elite teams in the National Hockey League.
There’s no shame in losing to the Lightning. Yet, the way they lost lead to some immediate questions into the length of their Stanley Cup window for Boston’s veteran core.
They may enter next season without Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. The season-ending loss, along with potentially losing a couple of cogs on the back-end, provided a tough pill to swallow. The players and coaches expressed disappointment and uncertainty during their postgame media availability.
“[Krug] is a great player. He always has your back. Definetly don’t want to see him leave,” Krejci said. “It hit me at the end of the game, that this core group, we may only have two or three years left.”
“You never know how many opportunities you’ll have to win a Cup,” Marchand added.
Yes, the Bruins have an aging core. But they also some young and talented players waiting in the wings including Pastrnak, who took the leap from all-star to perennial game-changer.
This isn’t the end of Boston’s cup window, but they might have a different cast of characters moving forward.
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
Bruins Daily is a NHL credentialed media organization that is dedicated to being the leading provider of Boston Bruins news, analysis, and commentary, by focusing exclusively on the Boston organization. Bruins Daily provides written content, studio produced video, and on location video, all with a unique voice that fans can relate to. Complete coverage is provided through all of the latest NHL/AHL news, updates, scores, injuries, transactions and fan events.