BOSTON - Ten years ago, the Boston Bruins were eliminated in a Game 7 to the Montreal Canadiens on their home ice.
History would repeat itself Wednesday night at the TD Garden, as the top-seeded Bruins fell to the Canadiens, 3-1.
Opportunity lost. That's how you can sum up this series and postseason for Boston.
The Bruins had perhaps the strongest team entering the postseason, with a real opportunity to make their second straight Stanley Cup appearance.
But Montreal was the better team in the series, coming back from a 3-2 series deficit to shock the B's and prematurely end their season.
Things got off to the worst start possible for the Bruins in Game 7.
It's one thing to give up the first goal of the game, but to do so in the first few minutes of the game is another story.
That's exactly what happened to the listless B's.
Habs fourth-line right-winger Dale Weise put Montreal on the board first, thanks to some shoddy defense by Matt Bartkowski and the B's.
Bartkowski looked asleep in front of the B's net, allowing Weise to slide in from behind him and take a centering pass from Daniel Briere. Gregory Campbell misplayed (or didn't play) the puck leading up to that pass, and Daniel Paille also shouldn't be let off the hook for letting Weise out of his sights.
With the B's down a goal early, they seemed to sleepwalk through most of the first period.
They also had to fight though some questionable calls (and non-calls), including a goalie interference call on Brad Marchand, who was checked into Carey Price. The B's killed the penalty, but it was interesting, as Zdeno Chara made two uncharacteristic turnovers near Rask's net.
Later, Reilly Smith would be tripped in front of Price after a shot on net, but it went uncalled, and Price held on again.
Every shot Price saw in the first period was right at him. This did not have a Game 1 or Game 2 feel where Price was saving shots he had no business saving. The Bruins simply came out flat at a time when they needed to send a message.
Montreal came out and punched them in the mouth, and it took much of the first period for Boston to shake out the cobwebs. But towards the end of the first period, they woke up a bit.
A Jarome Iginla shot was almost redirected in by Carl Soderberg to close the period, but Price was there for his best save yet. Boston also would pick it up physically as the horn sounded.
After a rough first period, to be down only 1-0 wasn't such a bad thing after all. As the second period got underway, the Bruins seemed to pick up where they left off in the first.
Now actually applying some pressure to Price, it seemed like a matter of time before they tied things up.
Their best opportunity came on a 2-on-1 with Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson. Bergeron deked in front of Price and shot it, but Price stopped it and corralled the rebound preventing anything after the initial shot.
But despite the Bruins new-found life, it was the Canadiens that once again found the back of the net midway through the second period - and it was off a B's mistake.
Looking to enter the Canadiens' offensive zone on a line change, defenseman Kevan Miller fired a pass cross ice to Bergeron who was waiting at the blue line. The pass was off and it was whistled for icing.
That put the puck back in the B's defensive zone, and after winning the face-off and keeping the puck from being cleared, it was Max Pacioretty who fired a slap shot off a David Desharnais pass that got past Rask. Desharnais did a nice job of poking the puck from Lucic, breaking free, and finding a wide open Pacioretty.
With a 2-0 lead, the air was let out of the building. The Bruins were approaching 100 minutes without scoring a goal, dating back to Game 5, and panic was setting in around the TD Garden.
About six minutes later Pacioretty went to the box for holding Dougie Hamilton's stick.
That would give the Bruins their second power play of the night, and this time they would capitalize.
With the B's first line out on the ice, Milan Lucic saved the puck from being cleared and found David Krejci streaking to the net. Krejci passed back to Torey Krug who fired a slap shot from the blue line. The puck was tipped in front of the net by Jarome Iginla and past Price to cut the deficit in half.
That woke up the Bruins - and the fans - who had been waiting 103:46 for something to really cheer for.
The score would stay that way well into the third period.
Boston's next best opportunity came when Krejci and Iginla found themselves heading towards the net after a turnover. Krejci's initial shot was turned aside by Price, but the rebound went to Iginla who was coming down the left side.
Like it has so many times this series, the shot by Iginla hit the post as Price sprawled out to his right.
The Bruins missed their chance again, and again, Montreal would make them pay later in the period.
Johnny Boychuk went to the box for interfering with Michael Bournival, and the Habs capitalized.
Daniel Briere's wrist shot got by Rask to put the Canadiens up 3-1 with under three minutes to go, and the Bruins simply had no answer.
GOLD STAR: Carey Price finished with 29 saves, and the only shot that beat him was a Jarome Iginla tipped puck right in front of the net. Price finished with a .936 save percentage while stopping 215 of 234 shots in the series, and the Bruins needed multiple bodies and chaotic traffic in front of him in order to score goals. Boston seemed to have some success against him when they switched to five hole scoring attempts in Game 5, but then Price made another adjustment against Boston that helped push the Habs to victory in Games 6 and 7. There’s no doubting that Price outplayed Tuukka Rask in the second round series.
BLACK EYE: Milan Lucic finished without a shot on net in 17:50, finished with only an empty net goal in the seven game series and was only intermittent with his physical play that wasn’t noticeable much beyond the Game 5 win at TD Garden. Worse still he made what appeared to be furious threats to both Dale Weise and Alexei Emelin in the handshake line following the Game 7 loss, and really didn’t show the kind of class the Bruins are used to exhibiting in defeat. While it’s understandable that Lucic was frustrated for not becoming a bigger factor in a bitterly disappointing defeat, he needs to be better than that both on and off the ice.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins might have outshot the Montreal Canadiens by a 9-6 margin in the first period, but Boston was completely rattled, nervous and out of sorts in the opening 20 minutes. Their breakouts were atrocious, their defensive coverage was disorganizing and scrambling, and they looked like they were the team playing in a Game 7 for the very first time. The coup de grace – no pun intended – was the Habs goal scored by Dale Weise with Matt Bartkowski completely falling asleep as the fourth line winger crashed the backdoor. It was one of two goals scored by Montreal’s fourth line players that sealed Boston’s fate.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jarome Iginla was one of Boston’s good players in Game 7, and scored their only goal while camping himself up in front of the net and tipping a Torey Krug shot past Carey Price. He finished with four shots on net, eight generated shot attempts, two hits and 18:20 of ice time where he battled, and perhaps at times also looked every bit the 36-year-old future Hall of Gamer well on the back nine of his career. But when so many other big reputation Bruins didn’t come through with a goal in a do-or-die Game 7, Iginla won a battle in front of the net and redirected a shot through for Boston’s only show of life in the game.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4-5 – the record of the Boston Bruins in the nine Game 7 showdowns under Claude Julien.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think the one thing that really hurt us probably moving forward is we had a lot of first-year players in our lineup, and you could see tonight there was a lot of nervousness. This time of year you’ve got to play your best hockey of the year. I don’t think we got to that point.” –Claude Julien attempting to explain what went wrong in Game 7 vs. the Canadiens.