"The start killed us," said Penguins right wing Bill Guerin. "I don't really think it was an X's and O's-type thing. I don't know if it was nerves. I don't know what it was. It was just unfortunate for us that it went that way."
Said captain Sidney Crosby, "They came hard, created come big chances and found a way to capitalize on every one of them. They did the things good teams need to do to win. Unfortunately for us, we didn't."
Sidney Crosby was called for boarding just 10 seconds into the game and Brian Gionta scored on the power play 22 seconds later. By the end of the first period, the Penguins were down 2-0 and never caused Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak to break a sweat.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma candidly said he had very little explanation for his team's play in the first period.
"As a coach, you anticipate and plan for different scenarios," said Bylsma in his postgame press conference. "I can safely say the start was not one I anticipated or planned for. It's not how I thought the game would play out."
Midway through the game, Pittsburgh had fallen behind 4-0. To say nothing worked for the Penguins would be an understatement. It was a team-wide failure of stunning proportions (which could be measured in giveaways; the Penguins committed 14 to Montreal's 0).
"It was the whole team, no question," said center Jordan Staal. "Down 4-0 to a team that smothers you when you get in their end, it's very difficult. There's not much you can do."
While Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, pulled after four goals, was not to blame for the loss, he was not able to make the big stops to save his team before the hole became too big.
"I didn't make those saves for us to keep the team in the game," said Fleury. "Very disappointing. It was tough. I wish I could have made those saves. The game just sort of got away from there."
As a result, the NHL will crown a new Stanley Cup champion. The Igloo in Pittsburgh has hosted its last hockey game. Bylsma and his players were not ready to discuss what this means for the future of their powerhouse team, just to share their disappointment in seeing the season end prematurely.
"Obviously, you have to give Montreal a lot of credit," said Guerin. "They played some amazing hockey this series. Their defensive play was incredible. Their team play was as good as I've seen. Give some credit to them."
"It's not easy," he said. "It's not something that tastes right. It doesn't feel good."