Pain from shocking end to Stanley Cup final lingers for Kelly

Chris Kelly has now been to three Stanley Cup finals — one with the Ottawa Senators, two with the Boston Bruins — and has one Stanley Cup to show for it.

Pain from shocking end to Stanley Cup final lingers for Kelly
Patrick Sharp #10 of the Chicago Blackhawks checks Chris Kelly #23 of the Boston Bruins in Game Six of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 24, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Chris Kelly has now been to three Stanley Cup finals — one with the Ottawa Senators, two with the Boston Bruins — and has one Stanley Cup to show for it.

But he could have, maybe even should have, won his second last spring.

And so, as he prepares for the 2013-14 season with former Ottawa teammates at the Bell Sensplex, he’s still trying to get past the pain of the one that got away.

Not simply that it got away, though. But the way it got away.

One minute the 32-year-old Kelly and his Boston teammates held a 2-1 lead over the Chicago Blackhawks and were looking ahead to Game 7.

The next minute — quite literally — the Blackhawks were skating around Boston’s TD Garden with the Stanley Cup.

It happened so fast, it had Boston fans rubbing their eyes in disbelief.

“Someone had to win, I guess,” Kelly said, a little glumly, on Thursday. “We put ourselves in a pretty good spot, ahead 2-1 with 1:16 left to play, and who would have thought that you’d give up two goals in 17 seconds to lose the Stanley Cup?”

No one, really.

The odds, said Kelly, are that you win those games.

But hockey — indeed, professional sports in general — has the habit of turning the odds on their head. Sure things can disappear in an instance.

The Bruins didn’t have to look far back in their institutional history to know that. They had already beaten even longer odds in their first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

By any reckoning, the Bruins should have been watching the final on TV. They blew a 3-1 lead in the first round as the Leafs rebounded with two straight wins, and then fell behind 4-1 with a little more than 10 minutes left in Game 7.

The celebrations had already begun in Toronto, by coincidence Kelly’s hometown.

But bit by bit the Bruins climbed back. Nathan Horton made it 4-2 at 9:18 to give them some life. Then Milan Lucic scored at 18:38.

Hope.

Then Patrice Bergeron tied the game at 19:09. Look out, Toronto.

Then Bergeron crushed the Leafs with his overtime winner at 6:05.

It was a turn of events that left the Bruins as startled as the Leafs.

“When we made it 4-2, yeah, you’re feeling happy, and then 4-3 with 1:20 left, that’s great and you’re excited,” said Kelly. “But how many times do you ever see two goals in that short of time? The odds are pretty well stacked against you.

“But then when we tied it up — oh, my goodness.”

Still, that sudden reversal was no consolation for the crushing end in the final.

“We got up 2-1 and we were playing well, and we’re a good third-period team, we always have been,” said Kelly, who opened the scoring that night. “They pull the goalie and make a good pass backdoor and (Bryan) Bickell scores, and then the next play (the puck) bounced and (Dave) Bolland happened to be in the right spot and scored.

“I don’t know how much time was left, not a whole lot, maybe 50 seconds, and you’re saying ‘whoa — what just happened there?’ You try to get yourself together and realize there’s 50 seconds left and maybe you can still score.

“But it wasn’t meant to be, I guess.”

The worst part of it is, and it was the same way after the Senators lost in the 2007 final, is that no one cares. The victors get it all.

“You work so hard and you come up with nothing,” said Kelly. “You don’t get a day with the Cup, you don’t have a parade. It’s just like every other team that loses in the playoffs. You pack up your locker and go home.”

With three years left on his contract, Kelly, who still has a house in Kanata, has bought a place in Boston’s North End, where he can walk to work at TD Garden. Many of his teammates live in the neighbourhood.

The way last season ended has left him feeling empty and frustrated, but given the astute moves general manager Peter Chiarelli has made, the Bruins figure to be one of the Eastern Conference’s main contenders next season.

They’ll get over it, said Kelly.

“There are two ways to go,” he said. “You can dwell on it and let it ruin you as an organization. Or you can learn from it and realize, yeah, we did a lot of good things, we have a great team here, and let’s get there again and learn from our mistakes.”

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