It will go down as the tightest series in NHL history -- and for the Boston Bruins
, one of the most disappointing.
Boston's reign as Stanley Cup champs came to a stunning end Wednesday night when Joel Ward
scored 2:57 into overtime to give the Washington Capitals
a 2-1 victory in Game 7, sending the Caps onto the second round and the Bruins home for the summer.
It's the first seven-game series in Stanley Cup history in which every game was decided by a single goal -- no other series had had more than five one-goal games. For all but a 2:54 span late in the second period of Game 5, neither team led by more than one goal at any point in the seven games -- meaning that for 427:34 of the 430:28 played in the series, the teams were tied or separated by one goal.
The series was the first in Caps history in which they played four overtime games; for the Bruins, it was the first such series since 1939 when they beat the New York Rangers
in seven games -- including three OT victories decided on goals by Mel "Sudden Death" Hill.
Washington goaltender Braden Holtby
made 31 saves to become the first rookie to win a Game 7 since Buffalo's Steve Shields
beat Ottawa in overtime in 1997 -- and the first rookie to send a defending champion home for the summer by winning Game 7 since Calgary's Mike Vernon beat Edmonton in 1986 (Montreal's Ken Dryden also did it in 1971 by beating Boston).
Washington's Dale Hunter
became the first man ever to get the overtime winner in a Game 7 (vs. Philadelphia in 1988) and coach a team that won Game 7 in overtime.
Hunter was involved in two of the three Game 7 victories in franchise history; the only one he missed was Washington's 2-1 win against the Rangers three years ago.
Can't do it again -- The Bruins join the increasingly long list of teams that were unable to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. The last franchise to win back-to-back titles was the Detroit Red Wings
, who did it in 1997 and '98. The 14-year gap between repeat champions is the longest in Stanley Cup history.
OT trends continue … -- The Caps-Bruins overtime was the 15th in 46 games so far this spring, matching the record set 11 years ago. We're already more than halfway to the single-season record of 28 overtime games, set in 1993.
It's been a great year for the road teams in OT -- Washington was the 11th visiting team to send the home fans home unhappy.
Ward's goal at 2:57 of the extra period also continued another trend -- quick endings. The last seven OT games this spring have been decided in 5:39 or less, and five of those seven haven't gotten as far as 3:30. In all, 10 of the 15 games haven't made it to the six-minute mark of overtime -- and just two (both of which went into a second extra period) needed more than 13:15 of OT to determine a winner.
And so do Game 7 trends … -- What's the best way to win Game 7? No question -- it's to score first.
The Washington-Boston series was the eighth in the last two years to get to a seventh game -- and all eight have been won by the team that got the first goal. That shouldn't come as a surprise: Of the 141 Game 7s played since the NHL adopted the format in 1939, 104 (73.8 percent) have been won by the team that scored first.
Home teams used to dominate when Game 7s went to overtime, but road teams have had the better of the results in more recent times. Since the current playoff format was adopted in 1994, there have been 15 Game 7s that went past regulation -- and the visiting team has won 10 of them. Overall, home and road teams have split the 34 Game 7s that were decided in OT.