Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov still sighs and struggles to speak about the pain he felt the night of April 30, the agony he and his teammates took into the offseason after their heartbreaking exit from the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"It was a nightmare for all of us, especially for me," Varlamov said.
Leading by a goal against the Minnesota Wild with less than three minutes left in regulation of Game 7 in the Western Conference First Round series, it was right there for the taking for the Avalanche. They had played at a surprisingly high level all season and needed to keep it up for a few more minutes to advance in the playoffs for the first time in six years and face the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
It didn't happen, and maybe -- as coach Patrick Roy has rationalized over and over, in public and one can only assume in private as well -- it didn't happen for a reason.