Right wing Steve Bernier and the rest of the Devils' third line did so much good work for the team during the run into and including the Stanley Cup final.
But Monday night, after center Stephen Gionta was hit with a questionable check at center ice, Bernier hit defenseman Rob Scuderi into the end boards face-first and, under Rules 41.3 and 41.5, the latter for the blood coming from Scuderi's face, Bernier was hit with a major penalty and game misconduct. The Kings' previously shaky power play scored three times in a span of 3:58, sending Los Angeles on its way to a 6-1 Game 6 win and the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
It also sent Bernier to playoff infamy.
The loss put a stop to the Devils trying to become the first team since 1942 to come back from 3-0 to win the Cup final and the fourth team in NHL history to pull it off. They won Games 4 and 5 to plant some doubt in the minds of the Kings, but L.A. came out strong and then erupted on that power play.
"I felt very bad, but it's a fast game out there and it ends up being a bad play," Bernier said after the game. "You want to help your team win, not to get five minutes and help them lose. ... I didn't watch (the game). I stayed here and tried to listen to the crowd. It was very hard, for sure. I wish I could take that play back, but I can't. ... Listening and knowing they score three goals, knowing it was your penalty, it's very, very tough."
After the game, coach Pete DeBoer, clearly angry after the non-call and then the call, said, "You know what? Tonight is about L.A. and letting them celebrate. If you want to ask me about that in about a week, I'll give you my honest opinion on it."
From there, it was the Devils trying to play catch-up. They would score one goal (by center Adam Henrique late in the second period), only their eighth in the series, but by that time it was 4-0 because defenseman Anton Volchenkov inadvertently skated into lineman Pierre Racicot, leading to the fourth goal. No team had ever overcome a four-goal deficit and win a finals game.
So the season was over, ending with left wing/captain Zach Parise potentially headed for unrestricted free agency and goalie Martin Brodeur (and the team) to a final decision about another year. He showed that even at age 40 he's still the face of this franchise.
"I'm proud of our group," DeBoer said. "You put some men together and you play 110 games. I couldn't be prouder of them."