You could hear a pin drop in TD Garden.
A historic season in which Boston was unquestionably the best team in hockey and seemed destined to lift the Stanley Cup was snuffed out in an instant when Carter Verhaeghe beat Jeremy Swayman 8:35 into overtime to clinch the series for Florida.
It was a stunning and painful end for the Bruins, who had every chance to finish the job. They heavily outplayed Florida in Game Five but gave the game away in OT. They held two third-period leads in Game Six but couldn’t shut the door. In Game Seven, they stormed back from a two-goal deficit and led with a minute left but couldn’t hang on.
Boston didn’t play well Sunday night, but they still had a chance to win.
They looked just as sloppy, disjointed, and careless as the first three home games. Florida’s first goal came from a Brandon Montour solo rush when Dmitry Orlov was too slow to react. Their second came off yet another defensive zone turnover when neither Brandon Carlo nor Hampus Lindholm could clear the puck.
Per Mike Kelly of NHL Network, Florida’s second goal was the 8th scored directly off a Boston turnover at 5-on-5. The Bruins gave the puck away 18 times in Game Seven and finished the series with a grand total of 91 turnovers. Their inability to play through the Panthers’ aggressive forechecking cost them dearly.
Boston got on the board with a pair of power play goals from David Krejci and Tyler Bertuzzi, bringing the anxious Garden crowd to life. David Pastrnak pounded home a long rebound off Bobrovsky four minutes into the third to put the B’s in front.
David Pastrnak gives the Bruins the lead.
3-2 game. pic.twitter.com/SCMKQQJJeU
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 1, 2023
From that point, Boston took control of the game and likely emerged victorious.
Florida pulled Bobrovsky with just over two minutes to go and cranked up the pressure, which Boston couldn’t withstand. Patrice Bergeron blocked Sasha Barkov’s point shot right toward Montour, who blasted it by Swayman to tie the game.
The Garden crowd, which had regained their composure, was again quieted with a wave of anxiety.
Boston came out in OT looking just as tight and nervous as they started the game, and Florida took full advantage.
Florida’s forecheck was again all over the Boston defense, forcing seven giveaways in overtime alone. Aside from an early Pastrnak chance and the knob of Bobrovsky’s stick, the Bruins hardly threatened to score.
Swayman had to make several big saves to keep the season alive while Boston struggled to manage the puck, but it wasn’t enough.
Swayman says NOPE pic.twitter.com/CDDLmuUVoI
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) May 1, 2023
Matthew Tkachuk beat two Bruins to a dump-in behind the net and eventually worked the puck to Verhaeghe to complete the stunning 3-1 series comeback.
To say this season ended in bitter disappointment for the Bruins would be a colossal understatement.
Their inability to manage the puck or Florida’s forechecking pressure over the course of seven games is inexplicable. The goaltending implosion could partially be attributed to the constant turnovers, but they still performed far below their standard.
Boston had no answer for Tkachuk all series long. The likely Hart Finalist had 11 points in the series, and his line with Verhaeghe and Sam Bennett combined for 24 points and a +14.
Four different Bruins finished above a point-per-game in the series. Marchand, Bertuzzi, Orlov, and Hall combined for 14 goals and 36 points but a -9 goal difference. Hall chipped in a single assist in Game Five and was scoreless the last two after a four-point outing.
Patrice Bergeron scored upon his return in Game Five but was scoreless afterward and finished a ghastly -6. After the game, he revealed his lingering injury was a herniated disc suffered in the regular season finale.
This is a scar that will sting Bruins fans for a long time, arguably worse than losing to St. Louis in 2019. It certainly has the dubious honor of joining the 1978 Red Sox, 2007 Patriots, and 2010 Bruins among the biggest choke jobs in Boston sports history.
“65 Wins” might as well become the new “18-1.”
The only way to redeem this failure is to win. The 2010 Bruins redeemed themselves by winning the following year. The ’96 Red Wings and ’19 Lightning bounced back from their history-making flops by winning two straight.
But this Bruins team went all in on the “Last Dance.” There’s no guarantee they’ll get another chance like this for a while.
The only thing we can do is take our lumps, move on, and hope the pain fades away.
Photo: John Tlumacki/Boston Globe