The end, such as it was, officially arrived Saturday for the Islanders.
A tie after two periods turned into a 6-3 rout by the Bruins, signaling the Islanders' elimination from the Eastern Conference playoff picture for a fifth straight year.
The Islanders took their run to the 78th game, two games further than last season, but all you need to know about this playoff chase was that none of the Isles asked about it professed to know that Saturday's loss meant they were officially done.
"I guess this was the game that knocked us out of it," Travis Hamonic said. "It stinks. You play hockey for one reason: to win a championship. Obviously, that didn't happen. We wanted to be playing deep into the spring."
The defending champions from Boston helped fill the Coliseum on a dreary Saturday, with a roughly even split of fans either cheering for the home side or decked out in black and gold.
The teams traded goals during the first 40 minutes for a 2-2 tie -- David Krejci and Chris Kelly for the Bruins, Kyle Okposo and P.A. Parenteau for the Isles -- before the Bruins took over in the third period.
Brad Marchand cruised down the slot to beat Al Montoya at 3:13 and Tyler Seguin beat Montoya with a very stoppable wrist shot from the boards at 10:37. Parenteau got one back at 14:53 with his 18th of the season and second of the day, but the Bruins kept coming. Goals by Patrice Bergeron and Krejci closed out the game and the Islanders' season.
"They exposed some of our guys in the third," Isles coach Jack Capuano said.
The Islanders' consistency has been the main overall issue this season, and their inability to play a full 60 minutes has been another problem. They have been outscored 87-59 in third periods and 173-127 at even strength this season, two wide margins that must be corrected before this team can move into the thick of a playoff chase.
"Hearing that [we're officially out] is disappointing," said John Tavares, who assisted on both of Parenteau's goals, "but what really stings is the way we played in the third period. We didn't make good puck decisions, and even when we were in good position, we just didn't bear down."
After the Islanders spent the last 54 games of the 2010-11 season playing without much thought of the playoffs after a 5-18-5 start, this season was supposed to be different.
And it was. Tavares is among the top 10 scorers in the NHL with 77 points, a bona fide star now. Parenteau and Moulson have had standout seasons, and Mark Streit and Okposo, who scored his sixth goal in five games Saturday, have added to the offense after missing a full season and half a season with shoulder injuries.
But as the high-powered, relentless Bruins showed, there still is a gap between good and not so good -- between a team that plays each game as if it is the difference between a playoff berth or a spring of golf, and a team that can't sustain an attack for a full game.
"We didn't put ourselves in the position we needed to be in. It's been out of our control for a while now," Matt Martin said. "We keep having to learn this, but we know we need to be in much better position down the stretch than we are now."