BostonBruins.com - The Bruins battled to the very end on Monday night, but it wasn't enough to extend their second-round series as they fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2, in double overtime of Game 5 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Boston twice tied the game on tallies by David Pastrnak (12:38 of the second on the power play) and David Krejci (with 2:33 remaining in regulation) to force extra time, before Victor Hedman eventually ended Boston's season with 5:50 to go in the second extra session.
"This team is resilient," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "We're disappointed. We thought we were the better team tonight and we wanted to play on. We put ourselves in a hole, obviously, but felt we played well enough to win tonight, get it to Game 6 and then see what happens from there. They're a good team, too. They know how to win, they've done it a lot in overtime this season, and they made one more play than we did."
The loss brought to a close, perhaps, the most unusual season in team history. The Bruins rebounded from their loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to capture the Presidents' Trophy and carried 100 points - 6 more than any other team in the league - into March 12.
It was then that the season - and the world, for that matter - came to a screeching halt as the COVID-19 pandemic surged across the globe. A five-month hiatus followed, before the 2019-20 season finally resumed in late July in Edmonton and Toronto.
What the Bruins would have or could have accomplished under normal circumstances, will no doubt, leave the Black & Gold pondering 'what ifs' for some time.
"You can always look at what ifs, but the fact of the matter is we were fortunate enough to be able to play," said Brad Marchand. "I think we have to be grateful for the opportunity to be here, regardless of how difficult it was and the sacrifice we had to make.
"A lot of people are going through a lot of things and we're fortunate to be able to be here and have the opportunity to play. It really doesn't matter what could have happened or what would have happened. This is what happened."
After the loss, there was an obvious sense of unknown for a core group that has battled together for over a decade. With captain Zdeno Chara and blue line stalwart Torey Krug set to become unrestricted free agents in the coming weeks, the Game 5 loss might go down as their last hurrah in Black & Gold.
"It just kind of hit me after the game that the core group, a few of us, we have one or two, three years left," said David Krejci. "With the pandemic going on, you never know what's going to happen. So, it's just kind of - I just got a little sad right now. At the same time, I don't regret coming into this bubble and fighting for the Stanley Cup. If I would have to do it again, I would."
Video: BOS Recap: Bruins rally in 3rd, lose Game 5 in 2nd OT
More reaction following the Bruins' season-ending loss to the Lightning:
On his message to the group postgame…
"First of all, I told them, for me, it's always an honor and a privilege to coach these guys. Listen, there's days where, as a coach, I'm frustrated - fans, organizations, players themselves, but they, we come to work every day. We're disappointed it didn't go better for us, no doubt. There will be some evaluation of players, coaches, up and down, that's what any good organization will do once their season is done. That's what I told them, it's a privilege and an honor and I appreciate their commitment."
On Chara and Krug possibly playing their last games…
"Well, I don't want to speculate if those are their last games. Those are decisions that will be made by the player and management going forward. I've said all along, grateful to have an opportunity to coach Zee. It was early in my NHL career, so to speak, later in his playing career, so he helped me a lot.
"Torey is a little different, I got him well into my American League career and he was just basically starting out, so it's a much different situation, where you almost feel like Zee probably helped me more than I've helped him, and with Krug it was a little more of watching him grow and being a bigger part in his development.
"Both great Boston Bruins and we'll see what happens down the line because, like I said, those are decisions that will be made. I love both those guys and what they mean to the Boston Bruins and hopefully what they'll continue to mean for the Boston Bruins."
Video: Cassidy addresses media following Game 5 elimination
On if they ever thought about how many years the core has left...
"I think personally, anyways, I was coming in trying to be in the moment. I wasn't trying to think about the future and just trying to enjoy what's there in front of you. Sometimes there's too much of that going on. You think about the past or you think about the future, you don't really enjoy the present. That's what I was trying to do and stay there. When a night like tonight happens, that's when you start thinking about it a little bit more."
On if they felt like they could get back to how they were playing in March…
"There was definitely a different training camp with lots of guys coming in and out. Not being able to skate and what not. We really didn't get the training camp that I'm sure we were hoping for. That being said, I know that around the league, we weren't the only team that was going through that.
"I think that we've always been a team that's been comfortable with the uncomfortable, I guess. Those were things that we couldn't control and that we had to find a way. And that's it. I don't think we - I don't want to use that as an excuse to be honest with you because we were 24 teams in the same situation."
On what his decision is on coming back…
"I haven't made that decision. I obviously just finished the game and I'm going to be open minded."
On his pride in the team and thoughts of continuing…
"I'm obviously very proud of this group…everybody made some huge sacrifices and we were a committed group to get back to where we left off at some point in March. I think that everybody showed up in great shape, ready to play, committed to come into the hub city and do whatever it took to play the best hockey that we could. I'm very proud of the group.
"Guys were playing very hard and doing whatever they could to win games. It's a learning experience for many players and hopefully this will make this group stronger and more resilient for the future playoff runs. Definitely, it's still very raw and disappointing. I know personally and speaking for all the guys, they left it out there and played with their heart."
Video: Bergeron and Chara talk to media after Game 5 loss
On how he feels after the game…
"It's a very disappointing finish..,we had a great year. Obviously, it's been a very different playoff schedule and it was a lot of time off. But we have a hell of a team and we expected better out of this year. We thought we had a chance to - Tampa has a great team, don't get me wrong, don't want to take anything away from them, they have a great team - just, the way things were rolling throughout the season, we thought we were going to go all the way.
"It's a huge sacrifice to come here and guys had to really dedicate a lot of time and effort to be here. And it's kind of a waste of time now. We spent the last three months getting ready for this. Being here and we walk away without anything to show for it.
"It's tough and you never know how many opportunities you're going to have to win a Cup. We never know if we're going to be back in the Finals again or in even in the playoffs again. Every opportunity missed, it hurts."
On if it ever felt like picking up where they left off…
"No, it felt like we were starting a new season. The amount of time we had off was the same as an offseason. It felt like we were having a whole new year. But it doesn't matter. We're playing for a Cup. We're playing for the opportunity to win a Cup. We were all trying to prepare the best we could. Obviously, every city had different situations, whether guys could skate or not. We tried to prepare as best we could and, unfortunately, we fell short."
On playing with Chara…
"He's an icon in Boston…who knows what's going to happen but it's a pleasure to go the rink with him every day and see the dedication he has to the game and has had to the game for so long. It's difficult to do what he's done, day in and day out. The way he prepares and the way he still cares so much - he's one of the most, if not the most, driven person I've ever met.
"And he's going to be a Hall of Famer. He's one of the best defensemen, best players to ever play the game. It's been a real honor to play with him…we have no idea what's going to happen but he's an incredible teammate and captain and leader and I don't have enough good things to say about him."
On how Krug has become a leader during his time in Boston…
"Torey is a great player. He always has your back. We definitely don't want to see him leave. A great friend. I can't say enough about that guy."
Video: Krejci and Marchand talk to media after Game 5 loss