2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Boston Bruins' Reign Ends in First-Round Overtime

Roman UschakCorrespondent IApril 25, 2012

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 25: Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins shakes hands with Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals after Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 25, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Washington Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Looks like Tim Thomas won't have to worry about the Boston Bruins going to the White House again.

The defending Stanley Cup champions' reign ended tonight, just 2:57 into overtime in Game Seven at TD Garden, as Joel Ward backhanded home the rebound of a Mike Knuble shot to lift the Washington Capitals to a 2-1 win and a 4-3 series victory.

The NHL will again be denied a repeat champion, and the 1997-1998 Detroit Red Wings will have to wait at least another year to possibly get some company.

The series between second-seeded Boston and eighth-seeded Washington was the first in Stanley Cup history to have all seven games decided by one goal, with four going to OT.

The Capitals, who only solidified a postseason spot late in the year, also managed to win three of the four contests played in Beantown, where the Bruins were particularly formidable in the playoffs last year in winning their first Cup in 37 seasons.

As it did in winning in sudden death on Sunday down south on a Tyler Seguin marker, Boston battled back once more in the deciding game.

The Caps broke out on top as Matt Hendricks tipped in a shot by Massachusetts native John Carlson, before Seguin later dove to put home a rebound and pull the Bruins back into a tie. They nearly won it in OT, but Patrice Bergeron couldn't knock in the carom of a shot from the right point by Johnny Boychuk.

Soon after, Knuble blocked a Bruins dump-in attempt at the Caps blue line, and took off with Ward in pursuit. Moments later, and there was an amorphous, white-adorned mass celebrating against the glass in the Bruins' zone, as a shocked and stunned Boston fan base filed out onto Causeway Street.

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 25:  Braden Holtby #70 of the Washington Capitals stops a shot by Benoit Pouliot #67 of the Boston Bruins in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 25, 2012 in B
Elsa/Getty Images

The series, which only saw a total of two Alex Ovechkin goals, perhaps also saw the emergence of a potential top-flight goaltender in Washington's Braden Holtby, who stopped 231 of 248 Bruins shots in the seven games, including 31 stops in the deciding contest.

2011 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Thomas stopped 25 shots in Game 7, but couldn't get to Ward's rebound attempt to keep the Bruins' season going.

And just like that, Boston's title defense is done. Coupled with Vancouver's elimination by Los Angeles earlier this week, the two finalists from a year ago have now both been sidelined.

The Capitals will now move on to the second round against either the New York Rangers or New Jersey Devils, and with the way this year's NHL postseason is going, don't be shocked if they manage to advance again.

The Bruins won't have that opportunity again this spring, after pulling out three Game sevens last season. At least they'll get some time off this summer, unlike last year's whirlwind of post-title activity, and will try to pick up the pieces and give it another go when skating starts again in September.