The epitaph on the Flyers' postseason will look like this: They defied deficits, knocked off favored opponents, overcame early-round injuries, and gave their fans one of the most amazing playoff runs - in any sport - in Philadelphia's rich sports history.
But they couldn't overcome a ping-pong ball.
That ping-pong ball, in the 2007 draft lottery, enabled the Chicago Blackhawks to get the first overall selection that summer. The Flyers, despite having the NHL's worst record, got the No. 2 pick and chose winger James van Riemsdyk.
The Blackhawks were able to select the consensus No. 1 player, winger Patrick Kane.
The same player who took the air out of the rollicking Wachovia Center late Wednesday night, when his overtime goal gave Chicago a 4-3 Game 6 victory and its first Stanley Cup since 1961.
Kane was the Blackhawks' top scorer in the Finals, collecting three goals and five assists. Van Riemsdyk, a healthy scratch in Games 2 and 3, had a goal and an assist in four Finals games.
The goal Kane scored 4 minutes and 6 seconds into overtime was bizarre. Skating around defenseman Kimmo Timonen on the left side, the speedy winger fired a bad-angle shot from deep in the left circle, almost at the goal line. It went through goalie Michael Leighton's pads, but the goal light was not turned on and there was on-ice confusion about whether the shot went into the net.
For the Flyers and their fans, it was slow torture, those eight to 10 seconds of the unknown. When the goal was officially declared, a low groan echoed around the building and quickly turned into stunned silence.
"It's usually not a great goal," Leighton said of overtime winners. "It's usually a fluke, stupid kind of goal - and that's what happened."
Kane's goal, the 16th overtime winner to clinch the Stanley Cup, offset a determined Flyers rally.
During most of the game, the Flyers appeared out of gas against the faster and younger Blackhawks. Somehow, the Flyers gained a burst of energy midway through the third period and started to pepper the net with shots. They tied it when Scott Hartnell scored with 3:59 left in regulation.
They nearly won it as Hawks goalie Antti Niemi was sprawled on the ice and out of position with about 11/2 minutes left in regulation. But Jeff Carter could not get enough lift on his shot, and Niemi made his most important stop of the series.
Still, momentum was on the Flyers' side.
"We felt it was just meant to be, that we were going back to Chicago" for Game 7, the Flyers' Danny Briere said.
Ah, but that was before visions of that ping-pong ball came back to haunt the Orange and Black. Kane's shot gave literal meaning to the Blackhawks' slogan: One Goal.
Chicago's offense showed much more life after coach Joel Quenneville broke up his top line in Game 5, putting each of the players on a different unit.
Conversely, the Flyers had only one effective line throughout most of the Finals. Briere, Hartnell and Ville Leino combined for all three goals and seven points on Wednesday.
The Briere line was plus-15 in the series.
The "top" line of Mike Richards (minus-7), Carter (minus-6) and Simon Gagne (minus-8) was a combined minus-21 in the Finals. Gagne, who was stopped on a breakaway early in the third period, and Carter weren't 100 percent healthy after returning from broken feet.
So where do the Flyers go in the off-season? Probably shopping for a goalie.
Leighton, whose strong play was a reason why the Flyers even reached the playoffs, was superb in the conference finals (three shutouts) against Montreal, but he was shaky in the Finals. Witness his Finals numbers - a 3.96 goals-against average and an .876 save percentage - and the bad game-winners he allowed to Ben Eager in Game 2 and to Kane in Game 6.
Before the Finals, the Flyers said they wanted to re-sign Leighton, a potential unrestricted free agent in July. If they do, it will probably be as a backup. The Flyers are now expected to explore the goalie market in the off-season. Montreal's Carey Price, Vancouver's Cory Schneider, Nashville's Dan Ellis and Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier are among the candidates.
The good news for the Flyers is that many of their players have increased their trade value because of their postseason run. The bad news is that several of those players have no-trade clauses and would have to be persuaded to accept a deal.