Just when you think you've seen everything in this game, this happens. The building was starting to empty after the Maple Leafs' fourth goal. The Bruins noticeably slumped as they sat on their bench. They seemed to think it was over, too.
But they got off the mat. The Bruins scored three times in the final 10 minutes and 42 seconds. First it was Nathan Horton. Then Milan Lucic. Then Patrice Bergeron scored the backbreaker with 50.2 seconds remaining in regulation time.
It was the Canadian Olympian, Bergeron, again with the heartbreaker, 6:05 into overtime. As my niece would say, "OMG, Uncle Tim."
Leafs in state of shock
Oh my God, indeed. The Maple Leafs, themselves, were in a state of shock. They couldn't believe what happened. After Bergeron fired in the winner, they briefly consoled their popular goalie James Reimer and then stood in disbelief as they waited to shake the hands of the victors.
"It's tough to stay composed in a situation like that," said Maple Leafs defenceman Cody Franson, who scored twice to put his team up 2-1 after an early away that allowed the Bruins to take a 1-0 lead.
"We gave ourselves a very good chance to win this series and then we gave it away. It's that simple. We gave it to them."
It was an epic collapse. It was a meltdown in Beantown. Some will say the Maple Leafs choked. They held a 2-1 advantage entering the third period. Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri appeared to put the game out of reach with goals in the opening 5:29 of the final frame of regulation time.
Leafs knew Bruins would make a push
You knew there be a final push from the Bruins. But the Maple Leafs had been checking so well. They had excellent coverage in their own end. They took advantage of the Bruins aggressive play. Nevertheless, they folded. They backed up and stopped playing.
"We're up two goals, it's not like I'm dancing in my crease," said Toronto goalie James Reimer, who emerged for the overtime and skated towards the wrong net.
"They came with some pressure and some desperation and they were able to sneal a few bounces in."
You feel for Reimer and his teammates in the agony of defeat. But you also feel for the long-suffering Maple Leafs fans, who were ready for a party on Monday. They haven't had much to celebrate. Then they were let down with a thud.
After seven seasons of suffering since the 2004-05 cancelled season, after a nine-year wait to see a single post-season game at the Air Canada Centre, so many good things happened in Toronto's run to the playoffs this year.
Nazem Kadri. The way Reimer played at times, including in Games 5 and 6 of this series. Joffrey Lupul's dynamic play. Kessel's strong finish to the season. The continued development of Tyler Bozak. The emergence of Cody Franson as a point producer from the blue-line and top-four defenceman. Jake Gardiner excelled when he finally got the chance in the post-season.
Give credit to Dallas Eakins
Toronto Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins deserves credit. Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle should be at the front of the line in terms of responsibility for all the good vibrations. He has a touch behind the bench that Toronto hasn't seen since Pat Quinn's early days.
With the sting of this defeat so fresh, it's difficult to preach to Maple Leafs supporters about this experience and how good it will be for this team down the road. Just look at how the Maple Leafs matured and learned in the past two weeks.
They overcame opening-night jitters. They overcame first-game jitters at home. They overcame a two-game deficit in the series to force Game 7. They'll be better after this heartbreak.
"We're glad we got rid of them because they just kept getting better and better," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
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