BOSTON — It simply could not end this way.
After all the Bruins had done, all they had accomplished, with a trip to the NHL Final Game 7 seemingly locked up, the scene on the TD Garden ice just could not be a reality.
With just 1:22 remaining in Game 6, holding a one-goal lead with Tuukka Rask — the man many consider the greatest goalie in hockey — in net, Boston fans were going wild as their beloved B’s would play for the Stanley Cup title tomorrow.
So how, just moments later, was Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews skating around the ice at the Garden with the Stanley Cup held over his head?
“Everything went wrong,” said Bruins center David Krejci. “Everything. This one is going to hurt for a long time.”
In the blink of an eye, what looked one week ago to be one of the greatest stories in Boston sports history turned into one of the greatest collapses in the city’s sports lore.
After Chicago had pulled Corey Crawford for an extra skater, Bruins fans and players watched in stunned silence as Bryan Bickell celebrated the tying goal with 1:22 left.
Then, just 17 seconds later, while most were still watching the replay from the Bickell score, Dave Bolland scored the winner to give the Chicago Blackhawks the Stanley Cup title.
Was it Bill Buckner? Maybe not.
But last night will go into the books with the likes of David Tyree and Plaxico Burress in 2007 and Aaron Boone in 2003 for nightmare endings.
“This is like nothing I have experienced in my entire life,” said a stunned Rask. “It’s shocking. You are thinking you have it, then it’s just over.”
As the Blackhawks celebrated on the ice, Bruins players sat at their lockers quietly, eyes wide, heads shaking as if they had just seen a ghost, struggling to wrap their heads around the reality that, in seconds, it was all over.
This could not really be happening. Not to the Bruins team which had mounted the greatest comeback in NHL history in their Game 7 victory over Toronto in the first round.
Not to the Bruins team which had steam-rolled the New York Rangers then humiliated Cup favorite Pittsburgh in the semifinals.
At the very least, the Cup Final was going seven games. Right?
The few Bruins who spoke to the media after the game struggled to find a way to express their emotions.
“Shocked,” said Johnny Boychuk. “Just, just shock. I don’t even know what to tell you. Absolutely speechless. I’m at a loss for words.”
This Bruins team, which had seemed so bullet-proof for so much of the playoffs, seemed to have it locked up when Milan Lucic potted the go-ahead score at 12:11 of the third.
Fans went wild, reporters began planning their story lines and more than a few flights to Chicago were likely searched for on Smartphones.
Because that was the way it was supposed to be. The Bruins and Blackhawks play a winner-take-all bloodbath in one of the most epic Stanley Cup Finals ever.
Rask becomes a hero, forever shedding himself of the Tim Thomas shadow. Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara lock up Nos. 37 and 33 being lifted to the rafters one day.
The Bruins match the Red Sox with two titles, and in just three years, and in 2013-14 set their sights on the Patriots’ three titles in four years.
This wasn’t just a title, this was going to be a dynasty. It was going to be a team that Boston fans talked about in 50, 60 or 70 years.
Those were the story lines. That was how it was supposed to play out. Rask wasn’t supposed to be a dog. Chara wasn’t supposed to be a non-factor in the biggest of games.
But that is exactly what did happen.
“It’s tough to put into words how this feels right now,” said Bergeron. “You work so hard to get a chance at the Cup. And you are right there and — it hurts. Give credit to Chicago, but that’s the last thing in the world you want to say.”
In the end, the Blackhawks not only won the Cup, but got to celebrate it at the TD Garden.
And all the Bruins could do was wonder how it happened.
“Just stunning,” said Dennis Seidenberg. “This one is going to hurt for a while.”