How did it slip away? The last shot at the 2013 Stanley Cup was in reach. One minute and 30 seconds. That's how little time was left, as the Bruins led 2-1, about to force a Game 7.
Seventeen seconds was ultimately all it took for Chicago to steal the Cup from Boston. It was the blink of an eye, a flash, a dream. There's not much to accurately compare it to. Many will want to forget those 17 seconds, and let's just leave it at that.
Just utter disbelief.
But you see, the thing about disbelief is, to have it, you had to believe in the first place.
And over the course of two months that spanned into late June, when the summer heat started seeping into Boston, that's exactly what the Bruins did - they made Boston believe.
There were ups and downs this postseason, just like the shortened regular season that came before it (seems like a distant past now, doesn't it?)
"Never satisfied" was a phrase often uttered from the Bruins, who had placed their expectations exceptionally high - their goal was to win the Stanley Cup, and they would stop at nothing less. Through the wins and losses, "finding a way" was another theme. The B's suffered losses, but they also found ways to win. It often wasn't easy.
In the postseason, the Bruins were lucky to remain fairly healthy, until three veteran defensemen were sidelined against the New York Rangers. But a young trio stepped in and did the job. As did the forward depth when Gregory Campbell broke his leg with his infamous shot-blocking shift on the penalty kill against Pittsburgh.
The Bruins took down New York in five, and swept Pittsburgh en route to their second Stanley Cup Final in three years.
But no moment was more encapsulating of this Bruins team and their 2013 run than in Game 7 against Toronto.
That's when they really made us believe - believe that anything was possible.
Down three goals at the midpoint of the third period of Game 7, with the season on the line, and thoughts that it could be the last time this Bruins group was together subconsciously creeping into their minds, they dug deep, kept digging, and found some magic.
The B's core - Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, among others - all led the charge. Bergeron scored the game-tying goal and the overtime-winner. He lifted the city up.
Boston was on a high. It was a comeback for the ages.
The manner then in which they carried that momentum, nearly rolling through New York in four games, and stunning Pittsburgh with its first sweep since 1979, caused the belief to build.
But entering the Stanley Cup Final, they met a team from Chicago that was carrying just as much momentum. The storied franchises had never faced off in the Final. By the time it was over, the teams had either been tied or only one goal apart for 87-percent of the series.
In the end, one goal stood between the Bruins and another shot at the Cup. Game of inches.
It's tough to take. But a page out of the B's book would tell you - there's no room for "woulda, coulda, shoulda" talk; that's no way to continue on.
The ups and downs of the sport are what make it so dramatic and emotional. It's a slew of cliches, but they're all true because this game a metaphor for how to live - to never give up, have no regrets, push yourself to the limit, embrace challenges.
"It’s the sport," was Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference's response, as he spoke about what happened in the Game 6 defeat. "We’ve done that to teams and it happens. You give up goals. It makes you want to throw up at the end because it’s not for lack of effort."
"You saw what the guys put in - it was incredible. It was a good effort, and you do all you can and I don’t think there’s any regrets."
The pundits will chime in, and say that Chicago wanted it more. That the Bruins didn't give enough. That not everyone pulled their weight. That not every player put their heart and soul into it. And it couldn't be further from the truth.
Every ounce of Black & Gold in that locker room wanted it. From the coaching staff, to the training, support and equipment staff, to the players. You don't make it this far in the playoffs without heart, dedication, the will to win. It just doesn't happen.
"It’s an awful feeling when you lose, but at the same time when you have a group of guys after the worst loss that you can imagine you can still look at your guys and know that they gave everything," said Ference.
"That’s the thing. There’s no consolation in losing, but you can still be proud of the effort that you put in and not have regrets with not putting anything more into it because I think guys were tapped. They put what they could and gave it all they could and we came up short."
The Bruins believed in themselves. Coach Julien believed in them. On the ice, in games, they made us believe, too.
"Although I thought we were going to get ourselves a Game 7, I thought our guys, through it all, just gave it everything they've got, and I can't say enough about that," said Coach.
"It was tough walking in that dressing room and seeing how disappointed everybody was, and to try and tell them, as I often say, there's a lot of teams that would have loved to have been in our position and getting that opportunity, and we've got to look at the positive."
"It's my job to do that and to let them know that it's been a great year. Every time you go through adversity, which we did this year - we had a great start, we struggled near the end, a real tough schedule the last two months, which didn't favor us going into the playoffs having played six in the last nine days and having to fight through that, coming back in Game 7 from a three-goal deficit and winning in overtime."
"There are a lot of good things to look at. And what we've been through and what we've accomplished, to me, is a credit to those guys. A loss is hard to take, but you've got to look a little further than that right now."
Coach: Was About More than Ourselves
You can look further, and you can also look a little further back. This season was not only emotional because of its roller coaster of a run, that constantly showcased the Bruins' character and their bounce-back nature. There were events off the ice that were much bigger than the Bruins - and that showed the resiliency of an entire community, city, region and nation.
On December 14, 2012, just about a month before the season began, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary struck Newtown, Connecticut.
In February, Coach Julien and a group of Bruins were able to visit Newtown families on a rare off day during the shortened season. The day wasn't about the Bruins, but about trying to bring happiness and a small sense of relief to the families.
"That's such a nice thing to see right now," Coach had said, as he watched his players running around, smiling, playing street hockey with the kids. "I'm really proud of our players for coming in here and helping out."
"When you look at the faith and you look at the strength of this town and how they've bonded and supported each other, it's amazing - and having the opportunity to be part of that group, and wanting to be part of that group, is pretty special."
Sandy Hook Elementary's lead teacher, Natalie Hammond, was invited to drop the ceremonial puck at a Bruins game not longer after the visit. When I spoke with her following the puck drop, she was graciously beside herself, having just had 17,565-plus at TD Garden give her a standing ovation and the Bruins all give her fist bumps on their way out to the ice.
Then, just two months later, tragedy struck much closer to home on April 15, when the Boston Marathon was bombed just a short ways from TD Garden.
The Bruins were scheduled to have a game that night; there were obviously much more important concerns for the city. The B's, who have woven themselves into the fabric of this town, wanted to do whatever they could to try and find a way to offer comfort.
"It’s a bit of a helpless feeling right now," Ference had said, the day following the tragic events. "In some sense, you feel a bit helpless in what can you do after the fact as far as action other than do our job and make sure that we’re there when people need us and think of anything possible that we can do to help."
The best way they felt they could do that, was by giving their best effort out on the ice for their fans.
"That's the sport that we're in right now, is to make sure you bring joy and energy to people's lives. I'm talking about every day," Bergeron had said. "So it's about playing your game, making sure you try to bring smiles to people's faces in tough times like that."
For the Bruins, they wanted to give the city something to believe in.
"It's always nice to have something to believe in," said Brad Marchand. "If we can get people's mind off what happened even for a few hours, and basically play for our city. And that's what we have to do."
"It's really a time when Boston is going to come together and unite, and just make us all stronger."
Boston would pull together in the coming months, and they would soon rally around their team in the spoked-B on a two-month journey into the end of June. It was two months of relief, of getting pulled in by the charisma of a B's team that would not give up, even when they appeared down and out.
And at each playoff game, a Boston Strong Fan Banner Captain would proudly wave the Boston Strong flag from the ice before puck drop. Included in the captains were Richard Donohue, Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman, who on the night of Game 6, stood strong with a bright, wide smile and his eyes glistening.
"You know, at the end of the day, I think that's what hurts the most is in the back of our minds. Although we needed to focus on our team and doing what was going to be the best thing for our team to win a Stanley Cup, in the back of our minds, we wanted to do it for those kind of reasons, the City of Boston, what Newtown has been through. It hit close to home," Coach Julien said following his team's Game 6 loss.
"And the best way we felt we could try and cheer the area was to win a Stanley Cup. I think that's what's hard right now for the players. We had more reasons than just ourselves to win a Cup."
"We really felt that we wanted to play as hard as we could obviously for a number of reasons and playing for the city was one of them," said Captain Zdeno Chara. "Obviously we tried to have a better result; it didn’t happen. But we are very proud of the fans, the way they stood behind us and cheered us on."
"We wear so much pride on our jersey, and we fight for each other," added Tyler Seguin, after the defeat. "This city deserved for us to do that, and for us to give it our all. No regrets."
Tuukka Rask, the calm, collected backbone for the Bruins, felt the same.
"We know people watch us, people like us, people cheer for us, so we want to be worth it," said Rask. "We made it a good run, but it’s just disappointing because we couldn’t get the Cup home and show it to the fans."
"We definitely left it all out there."
To leave it all out there, and still wind up short - that disbelief will probably be felt for a while longer.
But let's not forget, outside of those crushing 17 seconds, how the Bruins were able to provide a heavy dose of belief.