No matter the circumstances, the end is always harsh, abrupt, a punch to the gut and psyche. And so it was Sunday for the Bruins, when Clarke MacArthur’s shot went by Tuukka Rask with 6:30 gone in overtime, handing the Senators a 3-2 win in Game 6 of their playoff series and putting an end to the Black-and-Gold’s season.
MacArthur’s goal gave the Senators a 4-2 win in the best-of-seven series and sent them on to a second-round Stanley Cup playoff vs. the Rangers.
The Bruins, who rallied for an 18-8-1 late-season run under interim coach Bruce Cassidy to qualify for the postseason for the first time in three years, were finished. Puck in the net. Go home.
No Round 2 dance down Broadway. No deep playoff run, as ownership put on the “to do” list over the summer. No magical springtime in the Hub of Hockey, with tulips sprouting in the shape of Stanley Cups in the Public Garden. No duck boats, our city’s certified ships of fortune, ready to set sail on the welcoming Copley Sea.
“Unfortunately, tonight it’s all over, it stings,” said veteran center David Backes, the former St. Louis Blue who came here over the summer hoping for far better. “Wish I had an eloquent sentence to give you all, but right now it’s just kind of that feeling where you’re replaying plays. You think of every play and wonder if you could have done something different to help your team win.”
The end unraveled quickly, the scrappy MacArthur connecting on the man-advantage only 36 seconds after David Pastrnak grappled him to the ice to set up a fifth Senator power play. A centering pass came toward Rask (26 saves), the goalie made the block, but MacArthur was there for the easy collect and pop.
All six games were settled by a goal, four of them went to overtime (three won by the Senators). For the first time in nearly 20 years, dating back to a ’98 playoff round vs. the Capitals in the new New Garden, the Bruins lost all three games on home ice.
Every game was close. Every game could have gone either way. It is so often the case in the playoffs, no matter the round, typically no matter the opponents.
But the tide shifted big time on the Bruins in Game 2, after they carried a 3-1 lead into the third period. They Senators struck for a quick pair to tie it, one off a magical moment by Erik Karlsson (read: NHL’s most talented defenseman), then won it in overtime, 4-3.
From the moment the Senators tied it that night, the Bruins never led again, until Drew Stafford nailed in a power-play slapper with 1:47 left in the first period on Sunday. It was a lead, however, that lasted all of 5:13 until Bobby Ryan knocked home his fourth goal of the series on a power play. The Bruins would never regain the lead.
Not to be discounted in any review of the Bruins postseason: They were without backliners Torey Krug (their top scoring defenseman) and Brandon Carlo (one of their top penalty killers) for the entire series. They lost another of their top four blueliners, Adam McQuaid, early in Game 2. They again on Sunday did not have their No. 2 center, David Krejci, who was felled in Game 5 by a knee-to-knee check by Chris Wideman.
Talk of injury, no matter how legitimate, is always considered a loser’s game in hockey. But few NHL teams, if any, could survive going without three of their top four blueliners. Take out Krejci, too, and the ask, already a burden, became ridiculous.
“We were down some men, good men,” conceded Cassidy, who likely will have his interim tag removed later this week and be named coach for 2017-18. “So that is unfortunate. So, yes, you walk away thinking, ‘We didn’t have our best lineup.’ It’s the ‘what if’ game, but I don’t know if that serves a purpose, to be honest. We had what we had, those guys came and played hard, so I don’t want to disparage their efforts. But, yes . . . ”
Cassidy went on to note the strengths of Krug and Carlo and McQuaid. The rude reality was underscored.
“No doubt they are good players for us,” he added.
The Senators moved to the 2-1 lead with 8:32 gone in the second, the ever-dangerous Kyle Turris finally connecting for his first goal of the postseason on a Brad Marchand-like quick fire in the slot. The Bruins ultimately forced the OT when Patrice Bergeron (71 percent at the faceoff dot) popped home the 2-2 equalizer at 1:57 of the third. Before it ended, Anderson would face 10 more shots on net and handle them all.
In the OT, in part because of the Pastrnak penalty, the Bruins never landed a shot. They were tired and choppy in their own end, as if sensing their demise. The Senators, also tired, had enough left for some artful passing on the power play, Ryan making the key dish that banged off Rask, then to went to MacArthur, and Boston’s season came to an end.
“Going into that overtime, you had a feeling, like, this is another chance for us to own the moment,” said Backes. “We were going to have that great feeling and blow the roof off this place and get back to Ottawa for Game 7. But they make a play and it’s over, and here we go with the sad interview scrums instead of talking about how fun a Game 7 is.”
No more talk. No more games. It was game No. 88 for the Bruins, now with one Cup in the last 45 years, and now off to another summer to figure out how to keep one of all of sports’ most loyal fan bases to keep coming back for more.