“Obviously we put ourselves in the worst position possible, but hopefully it works out for us,” Brad Marchand lamented on Saturday afternoon, following his team’s 6-1 loss to Ottawa at TD Garden.
At that point, the Philadelphia Flyers were still playing the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Right now all we can do is cross our fingers and almost hope for a miracle, that’s all that’s left for us, so it's totally out of our hands now,” said Head Coach Claude Julien.
For the first time all season, after Game 82, the Bruins no longer had control. Their playoff hopes were in the Flyers’ hands — and the Flyers didn’t hold on all too tight. With a 3-1 win over the Pens, they dashed any chance Boston had at redemption.
Had Philadelphia lost in regulation, or even garnered just a point, the Bruins would have held out hope for one more day, until Philadelphia’s final game on Sunday night.
Instead, the Bruins now find themselves out of the postseason for the second straight year.
“There’s no excuse for that,” David Krejci said following the game. “We are professionals and we should get up for every single game, no matter what kind of game it is in the season — Game 1 or Game 82, we should get up the same way for every single game.”
The Bruins had hoped to carry over the strong effort from their 5-2 win over Detroit on Thursday night.
“We did that for Game 81, but we didn’t do it Game 82," said Krejci. "There’s a reason why you play 82 games. We didn’t do that, and that’s why we lost.”
The Red Wings wound up losing their final two games of the season — to the Bruins, and then to the Rangers, 3-2, on Saturday afternoon. Just one point from the Black & Gold on Saturday would have earned them a bid.
“It’s unacceptable, the way that we showed up, and you can’t win games if you do that,” said Patrice Bergeron. “So, we got it coming I guess, by not showing up. We did score the first goal, and we should’ve kept going at them, and we didn’t. We let them get back in the game.”
Just 5:04 into the first, David Pastrnak gave his team a 1-0 lead for the second straight game.
Max Talbot and Marchand connected to flip Pastrnak the puck through the neutral zone and send him in all alone on Senators netminder Andrew Hammond. Pastrnak deked and roofed it for his 15th of the season.
Ottawa utilized its Coach’s Challenge to challenge that the play was offside.
The review was not conclusive in determining whether Boston was offside prior to the goal. The call on the ice stood as a good goal. Maybe the Bruins would be getting some luck after all? That would unfortunately not be the case.
“It’s just disappointing,” said Torey Krug. “Obviously we had the one-goal lead, and then from there, I don’t know if we thought it was going to be an easy night or what. But it’s just sad to see that we played the way that we did, especially with things in our hands, to try and give ourselves a chance to get in the playoffs, and we just didn’t. I don’t know. I don’t know what else to say.”
Tuukka Rask was unavailable for the game at the last minute due to illness. Jonas Gustavsson received the nod, with Jeremy Smith racing from Providence to serve as the backup.
“Just learned that Tuukka was sick just shortly before the game so we had to scramble to get Smitty in,” said Julien.
Gustavsson needed to be sharp. He stopped all 17 shots he faced in the first period, none better than when he robbed Mike Hoffman in tight on a breakaway.
After the first 20 minutes is when it turned sour for the Bruins, with their season on the line.
“[Gustavsson] kept us in the first period, and then it fell on our shoulders to come out and respond in the second, and we came out and just failed in the second period,” said Krug. “And then from there, it was too much chasing.”
Hammond came up with a huge stop on Bergeron point-blank just 20 seconds into the second. The Senators then answered with four straight goals in the first 10 minutes of the middle frame to take a 4-1 lead and stun the Garden crowd.
It became a 1-1 game just 1:42 into the period, when Chris Neil jammed in the puck. Gustavsson was sprawled on his back in the blue paint after making the initial save on Nick Paul.
The next three goals — in a span of 4:06 — would all come off deflections.
“I think some of the goals that they scored, those tips and a lot of those goals, we didn’t give him much help,” said Julien. “And, if anything, he gave us a lot of help there in that first period.”
“Excuses are out the window. There are none.”
“I don’t think anybody can say they had a good game,” said Zdeno Chara. “Disappointing, especially after the performance and game we had against Detroit. We needed to respond better and we didn’t have the game we needed to have.”
Zack Smith gave the Senators the lead, 2-1, with a deflection from the slot after sustained time in the zone with the Bruins unable to make a clear.
That jumped up to 3-1 at 8:39 into the period, with Matt Puempel beating his man to the front of the net and tipping the puck past Gustavsson. It became 4-1 at exactly the 10:00 mark, thanks to Mika Zibanejad’s deflection.
Julien then utilized his timeout. The Bruins didn’t have much flow to their game. It was the opposite of their inspired play against Detroit.
“You’re sitting on the bench; you’re trying to find something positive, some energy,” said Krejci. “But, you know what, we took the timeout and I thought the second half of the second period was pretty decent. We could’ve scored at least one goal coming in the room, feeling good about ourselves just two goals down. That's the worst lead in hockey.”
“But we just couldn’t buy that goal, especially late in the second.”
The Bruins didn’t allow another shot on goal for the duration of the period. They landed the final eight shots on goal of the second, but to no avail.
The third period was the same story.
Hammond robbed Marchand on the doorstep, stopped a Frank Vatrano bid in tight, and ultimately stopped all 18 Bruins’ shots he faced in the third.
Boston went on the power play with 9:26 to go, down 4-1, and went for it — pulling Gustavsson for the 6-on-4. Ottawa scored in the empty net. When another opportunity came, Ottawa again potted an empty-netter during the 6-on-4, for the 6-1 final.
“The puck pursuit that we had the other night [against Detroit] wasn’t there,” said Julien. “Our A-Game that we needed just wasn’t there.”
“It’s not the urgency. I think it was the execution – that was the biggest thing that was missing,” said Julien. “Execution can be puck management, the way we gave them goals. Execution can also be where we put pucks, how we forechecked and there was a lot that wasn’t at the level that it needed to be.”
With that, the Bruins are now left without a chance to bounce back. There will be no switch to flip, or spark to ignite. They’ll soon reconvene to gather their belongings, speak to reporters for the final media availability of the season, and head their separate ways for the offseason.
It seems too soon. Springtime has barely hit Boston. But all is now out of their control.
“I don’t think there’s any words for it,” Bergeron responded, trying to sum up his emotions. “I think we all know it’s disappointing.”