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Flyers' season ends with 3-1 loss

Kimmo Timonen twirled and dished the puck back, deeper into the Flyers' zone to try to shake a pressuring attacker.

The Flyers couldn't get past the Devils after getting the first win in the series. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
The Flyers couldn't get past the Devils after getting the first win in the series. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

KIMMO TIMONEN twirled and dished the puck back, deeper into the Flyers' zone to try and shake a pressuring attacker.

The puck landed on Ilya Bryzgalov's tape and by the time he could look up, David Clarkson was bearing down hot and heavy. With panic in his eyes, Bryzgalov tried to saucer the puck out of harm's way.

It was a Bryzaster.

Ultimately, Clarkson's series-clinching gift - after Bryzgalov's pass deflected off his outstretched stick and into the net - will be the forgettable, lasting image of the end of the Flyers' spring dreams.

But it certainly wasn't the only reason the Flyers, incapable of adjusting after three eerily similar losses, were dealt a 3-1 death blow in Game 5 on Tuesday night.

"I think we were thinking we were going to walk all over New Jersey," said Claude Giroux, who was suspended for Game 5. "It's kind of our fault a little bit. It should have been a tighter series. Not to be able to go to Game 6 is frustrating."

By the time 10 minutes remained in the Flyers' season, after Ilya Kovalchuk had blasted the insurance tally past Bryzgalov, the Wells Fargo Center was half-empty.

For the 36th straight spring, Broad Street will not have a Stanley Cup parade in June. The comeback kings had no comeback left in them on Tuesday night.

New Jersey took the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series by virtue of four consecutive victories, after the Flyers stole Game 1. It was the Flyers' only four-game losing streak of their 93-game campaign.

The Flyers fell 11 "Knock, Knocks" short. They are now 30-36 all-time when facing elimination in any playoff series. This is just the 11th time in franchise history (out of 96 series) that the Flyers have lost four games in a row in a playoff series.

After a 29-day run in hockey's annual rite of spring, the Flyers' playoff beards will be shaved on Wednesday. After 236 days, numerous trades, pints of blood lost, bones broken and surgeries performed, it is all over.

"That is a terrific group of men in that room, I can tell you that," coach Peter Laviolette said. "They played hard. They gave it their all. We came up short. But they have a bright future ahead."

It's just all so hard to believe. One year ago, the New Jersey Devils finished 23rd in the NHL. One year ago, the Flyers' brass decided that Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were not the avenue to navigate for a Stanley Cup.

Richards and Carter, playing for the Los Angeles Kings and preparing for the Western Conference final, probably proudly celebrated the Flyers' demise at an oceanside watering hole somewhere in California. They will face Bryzgalov's Phoenix Coyotes, who advanced further in the postseason in franchise history without him.

After such a promising regular season - where the Flyers finished with the sixth-most points in all of hockey but landed as the Eastern Conference's fifth seed in the playoffs - they followed it up with one of the most exhilarating playoff series in franchise history by knocking off Pittsburgh, the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup.

Less than 2 weeks ago, dreams of those orange-clad and well-lubricated fans packing the sidewalks to celebrate a passing caravan with a gleaming, silver chalice as the centerpiece seemed so real.

"It went by fast, that's for sure," Max Talbot said. "Beating Pittsburgh was really emotional. It was something that was a big challenge for us. We put a lot into it. You want to give credit to the Devils. They played smart. But it's obviously disappointing because you beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, the favorite to win the Stanley Cup and then you're supposed to win the second round.

"You turn around, you're down 3-1. And then now you're done."

With the supposedly less talented Devils on the docket, one more round - and one more shot to exact the ultimate revenge on the New York Rangers - seemed like a foregone conclusion. Their supposed long run lasted just five measly games.

The pain and anguish in that quiet Flyers locker room on Tuesday night was all so real. Many players sat still, unwilling to pull off their equipment for the last time this season, staring at the floor. The collapse, so quick and so complete, is the shocking part.

Some players, like the Flyers' eight contributing rookies, received a valuable taste of playoff pressure. Some players, like Jaromir Jagr and Timonen, aren't sure how many more cracks they're going to get at a Stanley Cup.

"It's a sad day for me," Jagr, 40, said. "I want to cry right now."

Game 5 started so positively for the Flyers, as Zac Rinaldo nearly knocked Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov through the boards with a thundering hit and Talbot followed that with a goal to give them a 1-0 lead in what appeared to be a possible series-shifting sequence. New Jersey responded with three unanswered goals.

With playoff hero Danny Briere closely guarded and leading scorer Giroux watching helplessly, the Flyers did not know where to turn. No player rose to the occasion, even as Martin Brodeur flopped like a fish in a pan in the Devils' crease.

"If we played like we played all season, we would have come back," Talbot said. "Obviously, we didn't play like we did all season."

The Flyers will return to their practice facility later this week to gather their belongings, clear out their lockers and conduct exit meetings. They have all summer to realize what could have been.

"You always want to move forward, that's what you've been playing for since you were a kid, to win the Cup," Nick Grossmann said. "It didn't go our way this series. It wasn't enough. This feeling is the worst. It's just empty."