Left wing Jake DeBrusk, still wearing his pads and skates, sat with his head in his hands.
Defenseman Charlie McAvoy was at a loss for words.
Team captain Zdeno Chara had to blink away the tears.
The mood in the Bruins locker room Wednesday night was one of devastation, dejection, and disappointment. Voices quivered as players did their best to make sense of what had just happened in a crushing 4-1 loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“It wasn’t meant to be,” McAvoy said softly.
With a chance to hoist the Cup on home ice for the first time since legend Bobby Orr’s iconic game-winning goal in 1970, the Bruins didn’t get on the scoreboard until there were just two minutes and 10 seconds remaining in the third period. By that point, the St. Louis Blues had already tallied four goals of their own — sealing the franchise’s first-ever title and sending the Bruins off empty-handed.
The tears started on the ice.
“I’m sure everyone pictured it differently,” Chara said.
“It sunk in right away,” added McAvoy, his voice stripped of any intonation. “One side’s elation. The other side’s nothing. We made it all this way, and you come up with nothing.”
For most, if not all, the hurt will be everlasting.
“I’ll never get over this,” left wing Brad Marchand said, his eyes red and glossy. “I’m not over ’13 yet. This hurts more than that. It’s not something you ever forget.”
Was this the most painful loss of his career?
After playing a critical role in Game 7 of the 2011 Cup Final, notching two goals and a helper in a 4-0 win, Marchand never found his groove offensively this time around. His production was stifled by the Blues, as was that of linemates Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.
In the seven-game series, Marchand scored only twice — once on an empty net and once on a power play.
“That’s playoff hockey,” he said, rocking back and forth at his stall. “You’re not going to dominate every game, you’re not going to score every goal. It is what it is. Obviously, we hold ourselves to a high standard and would’ve liked to be better, but that’s hockey.”
Marchand swallowed to fend off the waterworks.
Later, he let out a heavy sigh.
“It’s a heartbreaker,” he said. “It’s tough to describe. They just took our dream — our lifetime dream from us — and everything we’ve worked for our entire lives. It’s 60 minutes away from that. You can’t describe it.”
The emotions across the room were palpable.
The eyes of staffers and equipment managers were swollen.
DeBrusk remained hunched over at his stall for at least 10 minutes.
Goaltender Tuukka Rask put things bluntly: “It [expletive] sucks.”
Hometown boys Matt Grzelcyk, who returned to action in Game 7 after missing the past four with a concussion, and Charlie Coyle couldn’t keep the tears from falling.
“As a kid growing up in Boston, it’s a dream come true playing for the Bruins,” Grzelcyk said, his voice trembling. “To make it to the Stanley Cup Final, obviously, it hurts right now to not finish the job.”
“It’s what you dream about,” Coyle said after pausing several moments to collect himself.
So, what exactly went wrong?
Not capitalizing on their scoring chances seems to be the consensus. The Bruins dominated the shot advantage throughout the game, including 7-1 to start, yet nothing was getting past Blues netminder Jordan Binnington. Even on their lone man-up opportunity, where the Bruins had excelled this postseason, they couldn’t find the back of the net.
“We should’ve scored, but we didn’t,” center David Krejci said. “That’s what it comes down to.”
“We had some chances,” echoed Marchand. “We had a lot of chances, but they just didn’t go in.”
How do they move on?
Coach Bruce Cassidy noted there wasn’t much he could say in the immediate aftermath.
“There’s nothing that I can really say in this moment, I believe, other than I was proud of them, and they should walk out of here with their heads up,” Cassidy said. “That’s it. There’s no long speech. There just isn’t.”
But this team, a close-knit group that has lauded its bond all year, will move on together — a process that seemingly began in the early hours of Thursday morning. Well after the final buzzer sounded, players slowly made their way back into TD Garden, perhaps for some sort of collective catharsis. Krejci, Pastrnak, Sean Kuraly, and Danton Heinen were all spotted walking back into the arena.
“We all love each other,” McAvoy said. “We’re going to lean on each other and get through this.”