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Round 2

Bruins stunned to see promising season end in Game 5 against Lightning

Eliminated in second round after finishing one point out of first in Eastern Conference

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / NHL.com Columnist

TAMPA -- The Boston Bruins' season was piled bag after bag onto a cart in the hallway outside their Amalie Arena dressing room, soon to be loaded into a truck for a trip to the airport and a flight home.

By the time reporters trooped inside, there wasn't a Bruins logo left in the room, Boston's 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 on Sunday having eliminated them from the Eastern Conference Second Round.

 

[RELATED: Complete Lightning vs. Bruins series coverage]

 

Symbolic, perhaps, were two large Lightning-branded fans on the floor beside an almost-whispering Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, the home team having just blown Boston out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Special teams often can make or break a playoff series. When the Bruins review their loss, they need not look farther than their barren final three games at even strength, their last goal at 5-on-5 having been scored by defenseman Torey Krug in Game 2 at 15:58 of the third period; they went the final 187:20 of the series without one.

But this wasn't the time for a profound analysis of what went wrong. In the Bruins dressing room, four veterans spoke with broad brushstrokes of a crushing end to a season that saw them overachieve in many ways, going 50-20-12 and battling to the wire for first place in the Eastern Conference, finishing with 112 points, one behind the Lightning.

"It's very disappointing," Bergeron said. "The team that we have, the way that we've played all year… All along, we were finding ways and making things, I guess, easier for ourselves, winning games. Everyone was kind of contributing, so obviously we believe that we had a great team. We could have done a lot more. We believed that we had a better team.

"They're a stingy team," he said of the Lightning. "They did a good job of taking away the second and third chances. Yes, we had some looks, but not enough, obviously. I also think that there are a few things in our zone that we could have done better to break out easier and generate more offense because of that. So, there are a lot of things that we can analyze afterwards."

Video: The crew reacts to Tampa Bay's series win over Boston

Tuukka Rask, who made 19 saves on 21 shots Sunday, said that expectations for the Bruins grew throughout the season as they marched up the standings.

"We played good hockey during the season," he said. "We realized we can play with anybody in this league. Considering that, I think it's disappointing that the run ended so quick. [Tampa Bay] was a good team and at the end of the day, they were so much better 5-on-5.

"Five-on-five, we had no chance. You look at that and then it's pretty easy. … We just couldn't accomplish a lot 5-on-5. They shut us down. Credit to them."

Forward Brad Marchand, in the spotlight for much of the series as he tried to get under the skin of Tampa Bay players, somberly considered the end of the Bruins season, saying the Lightning "were better than we were in a lot of areas, one of them being their puck battles and their pursuit. It showed up in the end."

Marchand, who had eight points in the series (one goal, seven assists), wasn't an offensive threat in Game 5; his only shot attempt in 23:46 of ice time was blocked and he gave the puck away twice.

"They're a really good team," he said of the Lightning. "They have been all year. They compete extremely hard, they have a lot of speed. Very tenacious."

The Bruins won Game 1 6-2 on the heels of their hard-fought seven-game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. But Tampa Bay won Game 2 4-2, then swept the Bruins in Boston with 4-1 and 4-3 victories, the latter in overtime, before heading home for Game 5.

"I don't think a lot changed (after Game 1) except the bounces," said Marchand, who had a goal and three assists in that game. "We didn't really outplay them in that game, the opportunities that we got we scored on, which didn't necessarily happen the rest of the series. 

"They play a very good system 5-on-5. They were better than we were. You can't rely on special teams every night to win games. They help, for sure, but you have to be able to produce 5-on-5 and obviously we didn't do enough of that."

Video: BOS@TBL, Gm5: Krejci blasts home one-timer for PPG

Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara slowly rose to his feet, still in a Bruins sweatsuit and by now the last player in the dressing room, and credited the Lightning for their strong game in the neutral zone and their own end. 

"We needed to win more battles and generate more but that's something we weren't able to do," the Bruins captain said. "We needed that second goal (Sunday). We fought really hard, we defended well, we were just one goal short to push it to overtime. I thought we deserved it but it's one of those things. At this moment, it's disappointing because you feel and you believe that it's going to happen. Everybody was digging deep and working really hard to get that goal."

Chara, and the rest of the Bruins, now have time to reflect on the sudden end to a season that had many bright spots.

"If we're going to look back throughout the whole season, there's a lot we can be proud of," he said. "There's a lot we can take from this and use as a positive. A lot of people didn't expect us to be a playoff team [or] be a 50-win team. We went through some challenges and obstacles this season and we handled it really well. I thought there is a lot to be proud of and a lot to be looking forward to next season."

Chara then turned and slowly headed for the showers, Boston's 94-game season packed in duffel bags and equipment cases and loaded in a truck, bound for summer.

***

 

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