BOSTON -- Mark Recchi is a champion, a two-time Stanley Cup winner who brought that experience to the Boston Bruins from the time of his March 4, 2009 trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning. He helped the Bruins capture sixth place in the Eastern Conference this season with 3 goals and 6 points in the last 10 regular-season games, and he was one of the heroes in Boston's first-round upset of the Buffalo Sabres with his 3 goals and 5 points.
At 42, Recchi has achieved a place of eminence in the sport as the leading active scorer with 1,485 points in 1,571 regular-season games to go along with his 1991 Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the 2006 Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Recchi was a driving force among his younger teammates in the 2010 playoffs and a constant source of optimism, energy and persuasion -- until suddenly, it was over after a 4-3 loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal against the Philadelphia Flyers.
If only it were that simple, just a loss. They happen. But this was a Game 7 loss after the Bruins had built a 3-0 Game 7 lead after building a 3-0 series lead. Recchi has been part of some important moments in NHL history but he didn't want to be part only the third NHL team to cough up a 3-0 series lead in the playoffs. Nor did he want to be a member of only the third team to lose after holding a 3-0 lead in Game 7.
For the second-straight season, the Bruins lost a second-round playoff series that they were favored to win. Slumped in his locker, Recchi spoke in a much quieter voice than usual -- and the hurt was apparent:
Q: What were the keys to this game?
Recchi: Our penalty kill was good tonight and our power play was good. We didn't do what we should at the end of the first period, allowing a goal, and we didn't come out the way we should in the second period.
Q: You've played this game a long time. You have success and you've tasted defeat before. Where does this rank among the disappointments?
Recchi: It's up there. I've had some Game 7s losing in the semifinals, but this one hurts. You don't get too many chances to get to the third round. We had an opportunity to go to the Stanley Cup, and if we had taken that step, it would have been huge. That's what we play for.
Q: What do you think was missing tonight?
Recchi: The killer instinct was missing, also desperation at the end of the first period when we allowed them to score. Pair it up and it didn't happen. What are you going to do? It's over and we've got a long summer to think about it. It's disappointing.
Q: There's a nice young nucleus on this team, Rask and some of the other young players. How do you think this defeat will affect them in the years to come?
Recchi: I hope they learn from it. It's a great learning experience for all these kids. The feeling right now is awful. If you don't feel awful, you're playing for the wrong reasons. I think these kids really care, so I think they'll feel awful. They're great kids, and they're going to get better and better. It starts in net with Tuukka Rask. He's a wonderful goalie and a wonderful kid, very competitive. That's where it starts. We have some amazing young forwards. They'll learn from this, how bad a feeling it is.
Q: Was there a time during the game when you felt your team was in trouble?
Recchi: No. No, I didn't feel that at all. When it got to 3-3, we've been in so many games like that all year, I thought we were OK. I couldn't ask for much more, 3-3 going into the third period of Game 7. I think we all felt really confident that if we went out and played the right way, we could win. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
Q: Did you see them make any adjustments after they took a timeout when you went up 3-0?
Recchi: Nope. They didn't do anything. Like I said, we have to clamp down at the end of the first period. The 3-1 goal gave them some life. They came out and took advantage of that in the second period and played with some real life and we kind of fell back on our heels a little bit. Those are the big goals for teams when they go down 3-0 into the second period. It's a big difference to be down only 3-1. It was a big goal for them and it was kind of a tough one for us.
Q: Did the team recognize the too-many-men penalty from the bench? Was there yelling for someone to get off?
Recchi: (Someone) just jumped on and off. It was a terrible call in a Game 7, 3-3 game. Terrible call. The ref didn't call it, the linesman (Greg Devorski) called it. Not a very good call, not at this point in the game, not when it happens all night.
Q: You're a veteran who has been through the highs and lows. What do you tell the kids?
Recchi: We'll have a chance over the next few days. I think they'll understand the hurt and the disappointment right now and what it's going to take to get to that next step. It's hard to get to the third round. I think we've found that out. I think there has to be another level that everybody has to be willing to commit to and to get to. I believe these kids want to and I believe it's in them.
Q: Do you want to come back here next year?
Recchi: Well, I love it here. I'll take my time at the end of the year here and talk to (GM) Peter (Chiarelli). I'll take some time and figure out what I want to do. I've got to get over this disappointment first. I'll take my time. I don't want to make rash decisions right now. Peter and I will have some good dialogue over the next little while and we'll figure something out.
Q: Coach Claude Julien this morning said "safe is death." Do you think this team learned that lesson the hard way tonight?
Recchi: No, because you've got to play on your toes and you've got to play to win. The first goal was a big goal for them. That's something with around two minutes left in the first period, we were up 3-0. You have to make sure it stays 3-0. We didn't and we gave them some momentum -- and they took advantage of it.