It was a longer ride than expected, and a fun ride at that.
But the Blue Jackets' surprising run in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs came to a halt on Monday night at Nationwide Arena, courtesy of a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
And once again, as has been the case a few times in the series, the Blue Jackets had their chances. They simply came up short and hit a few too many crossbars in their first "facing elimination" game of the playoffs.
On top of that, they got a break! And they didn't get a big break, which we'll get to.
An early Bruins goal was disallowed due to goaltender interference, after what was a successful offsides challenge from John Tortorella. That kept the game 0-0 in the first period and it would continue that way until late in the second period, when Boston finally got a legal goal by Sergei Bobrovsky off the stick of David Krejci.
Then, there was the Charlie McAvoy hit.
Leading 1-0, McAvoy picked the head of Josh Anderson as Anderson entered the offensive zone. What should have been an easy decision for the on-ice officials (a match penalty) was deemed to be only worthy of a minor penalty, which the Bruins killed off late in the second period and early in the third.
There's no other way to explain it, other than an enormous blunder by the referees.
Boston's "dagger" came from Marcus Johansson midway through the third period on a shot that Bobrovsky probably should have had. The initial shot from the slot hit Bobrovsky's paddle, ramped over his stick and trickled over the goal line. From that point, the Bruins smelled blood and the Blue Jackets didn't help themselves by over-extending for chances and exposing themselves to big plays the other way.
While Bobrovsky was only average in Game 6, Rask was a difference-maker for the Bruins. He made the saves he needed to make and plenty that either snuffed out chances or stalled momentum for the Blue Jackets, who had surges but didn't sustain a lot of offense throughout the game. Their bursts were shorter than we've seen in this series and unfortunately, they spent more than half of the game chasing the lead.
Markus Nutivaara remained out of the Blue Jackets' lineup due to an upper body injury. Riley Nash was also an injury scratch for Columbus.
Well, this one sucks to write. The Blue Jackets are done for 2018-19, and they'll be back on the ice in October. It's sure to be a long summer for central Ohio hockey fans.