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Lightning 3, Bruins 2 (2OT)

Bruins eliminated in a double-overtime thriller, and now big questions loom about the team’s future

Bruins Torey Krug and Jaroslav Halak were down and out after the Lightning scored in double overtime.
Bruins Torey Krug and Jaroslav Halak were down and out after the Lightning scored in double overtime.Frank Gunn/Associated Press

This was the longest and likely, the strangest, Bruins season ever.

It began on time in early October, when “coronavirus” was a term used by scientific researchers, not everyone on the planet.

It ended just before September arrived in Boston.

It stopped in Toronto, the Bruins trying to keep their season alive on the unfamiliar date of Aug. 31, on a makeshift TV stage at Scotiabank Arena.

At 14:10 of double overtime in Game 5, Victor Hedman lifted the Lightning to the Eastern Conference final.

The Bruins are done with their bubble journey, off to a late summer filled with questions. In the days to come, we may learn the futures of unrestricted free agents Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara.

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Is Monday the end of the road for Zdeno Chara?
Is Monday the end of the road for Zdeno Chara?Elsa/Getty

“I haven’t made that decision,” said Chara, 43. “I just finished the game. I’m going to be open-minded.”

Coach Bruce Cassidy refused to speculate, but his message to the team came with the understanding that the 2020-21 edition, whenever it reforms, likely will not be the same.

“I told them: for me, it’s always an honor and a privilege to coach these guys,” Cassidy said on a Zoom conference, sounding a bit choked up. “I appreciate their commitment. There was a commitment to be here. A lot of sacrifices.”

David Krejci, his head down and hat brim blocking his eyes, was sniffling as he spoke.

“It just hit me after the game,” he said. “The core group, we have one or two or three years left ... it’s just kind of a little sad right now.”

David Krejci celebrates the tying goal that forced overtime Monday night.
David Krejci celebrates the tying goal that forced overtime Monday night.Frank Gunn/Associated Press

Brad Marchand, who scored 87 points as the Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy, was gutted after the ouster. After losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on home ice last year, Bruins returned as the only NHL team to reach 100 points before the pause.

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“The way things were rolling throughout the season, we thought we were going to go all the way,” Marchand said. “Guys had to dedicate a lot of time and effort to be here. It’s kind of a waste of time now. We spent the last three months getting ready for this, and we walk away with [nothing].

“You never know how many opportunities you’ll have to win a Cup.”

Patrice Bergeron expressed hope for another, though he acknowledged he was thinking about the possible end of an era.

Matt Grzelcyk and Patrice Bergeron react after losing in double overtime to Tampa Bay Monday night.
Matt Grzelcyk and Patrice Bergeron react after losing in double overtime to Tampa Bay Monday night.Elsa/Getty

“Obviously wish everybody comes back and we have another chance at it,” he said. “It’s always a pleasure and treat when you’re going out there with guys you’ve been around for 10-plus years.”

The winning goal looked like so many the Lightning have scored. Brayden Point jumped on the ice and flew around the Bruins’ zone. Defenseman Hedman, logging his 38th minute of the game, flung a shot between Brandon Carlo’s legs, past the screening bodies of Krug and Pat Maroon, and under Jaroslav Halak’s arm.

Tampa celebrated, but not too long. Everyone was probably too tired. There were full handshakes and respect between the teams. Just like 2018, Tampa knocked out the Bruins in the second round, in five games.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (No. 88), Luke Schenn (No. 2) and Yanni Gourde (No. 37) of the Lightning celebrate after the game winner against the Bruins Monday night.
Andrei Vasilevskiy (No. 88), Luke Schenn (No. 2) and Yanni Gourde (No. 37) of the Lightning celebrate after the game winner against the Bruins Monday night.Elsa/Getty

This was the second-longest game this summer, short of the five-OT epic between Tampa and Columbus in the first round. It was also the longest Bruins game since 2013, when Chicago’s Andrew Shaw won Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final at 12:08 of the third overtime.

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The Bruins poured 46 shots and 76 attempts on Andrei Vasilevskiy through the end of the first OT, and outshot the Bolts, 10-3, at 5 on 5 in the first OT.

Meanwhile Tampa, which lost star Nikita Kucherov midway through the first period, found its game in the second extra session. The Lightning outshot the Bruins, 7-1, in the second OT. This, after zero shots on goal in the 17 minutes after Anthony Cirelli scored with 7:57 left in regulation, and no dice on an OT power play (0 for 4 on the night).

Krejci, Playoff Krech himself, deposited the tying goal with 2:33 left in regulation, with equal parts luck, timing and poise.

Twice the leading scorer in the playoffs (2011, ’13), Krejci knew Chara had his head up at the blue line, looking to make a play. When Chara released a pass toward the net, Krejci broke from Cedric Paquette’s check. He didn’t expect Chara’s feed to take a wild bounce of Ondrej Palat’s stick, skitter between two Tampa defenders, and land on Krejci’s tape.

At 10:27 of overtime, Krejci was whistled for tripping. It was a bit of a makeup call, perhaps, against Krejci. Shortly before, he had broken Point’s stick with a slash, and skated free.

He has not scored as a Bruin, but let the record show Ondrej Kase drew a tripping call on Tampa’s top penalty-killing defenseman, Hedman, with 1:56 left in regulation. The Bruins could not capitalize before OT.

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The Lightning went ahead, 2-1, on the second of their two deflected goals. After the Bruins iced the puck, the fourth line losing the battle to Tampa’s top line, Par Lindholm lost the draw to Point. As Hedman wound up from the point, Cirelli rotated to the slot and was free to tip it home with 7:57 left in the third. No one tied him up.

Tampa Bay's Anthony Cirelli celebrates after a third-period goal Monday night.
Tampa Bay's Anthony Cirelli celebrates after a third-period goal Monday night.Elsa/Getty

The Bruins didn’t have Charlie McAvoy for that sequence. The No. 1 defeseman was hammered head-first into the boards from behind by Paquette at 5:51 of the third. Despite Paquette’s league-wide reputation and the precedent officials set with earlier calls (Nick Ritchie’s reviewed boarding major in Game 4), there was no penalty call. The Bruins were incensed, and spent some eight minutes without their top blue liner.

McAvoy returned by the end of regulation and still logged a team-high 36:39.

After 40 minutes, David Pastrnak’s power-play strike evened the score at 1 after Palat broke the ice.

The Bruins helped Halak, limiting the Lightning to 13 shots through two periods. Halak benefited from two hit posts, but he made several impressive stops. He undoubtedly gave his mates confidence at 2:29 of the first, when he slid post-to-post to deny an Alex Killorn one-timer from below the circles.

The Bolts converted on a spectacular tip by Palat at 4:21, who has goals in four straight games. He made it 1-0 for the third game in a row.

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Tampa Bay's Ryan McDonagh checks David Pastrnak during the first period of Monday's action.
Tampa Bay's Ryan McDonagh checks David Pastrnak during the first period of Monday's action.Elsa/Getty

Pastrnak ripped home a one-timer at 12:38 of the second after Krejci expertly sold a rarely used slap shot. On the downswing, he slipped it to Pastrnak, who didn’t miss from the left circle. The Bruins’ goal-a-game PP scored for the fifth and final time in the series.

Kucherov was cut by a double-minor high stick from Chara and went to the dressing room for the final 7:12 of the first period. He returned for the start of the second, but took himself out of the game with about six minutes left in the period and did not return. His availability is now Tampa’s biggest issue.

Boston’s concerns are greater, and they have more time to ponder them.


Matt Porter can be reached at matthew.porter@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports.