Thousands of Maple Leafs fans gathered in downtown Toronto on Monday night in hopes of celebrating a victory together, but they ended up going home with their playoff dreams shattered.
Fans at Maple Leaf Square in the city's downtown watched in anticipation as the Leafs led the Boston Bruins in Game 7 by a score of 4-1 with just 11 minutes to play.
But the Bruins scored three goals — including the tying goal with less than a minute remaining — and forced the game into overtime.
One more goal from the Bruins sealed the deal and the Leafs' season ended in Boston with a 5-4 loss.
The Bruins will head to the second round of NHL playoffs, while the Leafs head home for the season.
Many in the sea of blue and white jerseys packed into the square outside the Air Canada Centre appeared utterly deflated at the final buzzer, which marked the crushing end of the Leafs' first playoff series since 2004.
"I'm proud of my Leafs, they played good. But the game today, 4-1 we were up, we shouldn’t have let that lead go," one fan told the CBC’s Natalie Kalata following the loss.
"This is just unacceptable to me," 18-year-old Jake Roulston told The Canadian Press. "I've waited half my life for this game, nine years, for this game, and they blew it, in Game 7. I mean, that hurts."
James Park couldn't believe the game's incredible turnaround.
"This is messed up, we were up 4-1. We lost it all," he said.
"Disappointed millions, the whole city. But we brought a fight, we'll be back next year."
The scrappy Leafs came back from a 3-1 series deficit to claim back-to-back wins against Boston and tie the series. Then the Bruins staged a turnaround of their own.
Some Toronto fans cried in the aftermath of the loss in overtime, others looked to what the team might achieve in future and what it had done during its brief first-round playoff run.
On Twitter, there was no denying the heartbreak that some fans were feeling.
I can honestly say, I know what it feels like to be heart punched. #Leafs can't wait for the draft and next season boys. Proud fan here— Chris McDonald (@ChrisMcdonald91) May 14, 2013
The police were out on downtown Toronto streets to ensure there weren't any problems. Mounted police and officers on foot and on bicycles helped disperse remaining crowds.
Officers dealt with a few rowdy fans who threw beer bottles after the loss. Some pulled the tails and slapped the sides of the horses that officers were riding on.
Some Toronto officers, like their fellow Leafs fans, tweeted that the playoff run had been good while it lasted.
Great hockey- that's what we love and celebrate, even if it didn't end our way. And it was a great game. Next year...— Elizabeth Byrnes (@Supt_Byrnes) May 14, 2013
Before Toronto’s entry to the first-round of this year's playoffs, the team had not even been to the post-season in nine years. The Leafs last won the Stanley Cup in 1967.