When it was over, and he was as exhausted as this Flyers season was at last, Scott Hartnell hung his head, put his hands on his knees, and drifted like a leaf across the Wachovia Center ice.

Once again in Wednesday's Game 6, the Flyers very nearly pulled their season back from the abyss they had peered into so often. And again it was Hartnell who did most of the tugging.

Like some skating Samson, the Flyers' hirsute left winger has become more powerful as his hair has grown.

In yet another gutsy performance, Hartnell nearly kept the Blackhawks from hoisting the Stanley Cup. But in the end, though, Hartnell played just as he had predicted he would after the Game 5 loss in Chicago, the Hawks won Game 6 and their first Cup in 49 years with an overtime goal.

"We played hard, well enough to win," a stunned-looking Hartnell said afterward. "We had a great run. But we fell short, and it stings."

The 28-year-old took the body at every opportunity. He stationed himself like a 6-foot-2 skyscraper in front of the Blackhawks' net. And if a trip or an unseen stick would aid his team, he did that, too.

"It's really good for Scott to finish as strong as he did in the playoffs," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "The regular season was tough on him on and off the ice. But everything was kind of put behind him and he focused on hockey. He had an excellent series. They [Hartnell, Daniel Briere and Ville Leino] were our most productive and best line."

Actually, the Flyers had gone with their best line for the start of Game 6 - free orange shirts, the Rocky theme, Kate Smith.

Management knew what Hartnell did: that this far into a remarkable postseason run, it was going to take as much emotion as talent for Philadelphia to keep the Blackhawks from caressing the Stanley Cup.

In the end, and not at all surprising given how unlikely it all had been, the Flyers could summon neither sufficient emotion nor energy. But in the 4-3 overtime loss that ended the Flyers' season, Hartnell exhibited more of both than anyone.

Nearly three minutes the Hawks took a 1-0 lead at 16:49 of the first period, Hartnell answered.

But it was a painful reply.

As Hartnell positioned himself in his familiar haunt - in front of goalie Antti Niemi - Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith slashed at his ankles. Though the referees missed it, the Flyers winger tumbled to the ice. Hartnell grimaced and, with considerable difficulty, lifted himself up. Seconds later, after Niemi had stopped Briere, Hartnell corralled the rebound and poked it into the net.

Then, early in the second period, as Briere picked up a loose puck near center ice, Hartnell returned the favor, tripping Keith to spring his little linemate.

Briere scored, and the Flyers had their last lead of the 2009-10 season, 2-1.

The goal that tied the score, 3-3, came with 3:59 to play when, just before getting decked again, Hartnell tipped in a puck that had pinballed around in front of Niemi.

"I ended up getting a lucky bounce off my shin pads there at the end," Hartnell said. "It was almost a storybook ending to get this thing to Game 7. But it wasn't meant to be."

Hartnell has undergone quite a redemption since the regular season ended.

As Laviolette said, through 81 games, Hartnell scuffled, so much so that he worked his way into the new coach's doghouse. He appeared to turn things around when the playoffs dawned, then, just as mysteriously, began to dip into another funk.

That's when, during the Boston series, Laviolette called him into his office.

"He basically said he needed more from me if we hoped to turn this thing around," Hartnell said after Game 5.

After that, he was a dervish in orange and black, collecting seven goals and six assists.

None of that mattered for him, though, when not long before 11 p.m., he finally had to concede that this season - which, without him, would have ended long ago - was done.