There are probably worse ways for the Columbus Blue Jackets to have ended what was the most successful season in franchise history. And at some point, they might actually think of one.
In the meantime, the Blue Jackets will have to console themselves knowing they didn't go down without a fight, and might have survived a little longer than four games were it not for a brain cramp by a veteran player who should know better.
Ultimately though, it would not have made a difference for the Jackets to have extended this series. Columbus took some big strides this season by making the playoffs for the first time and has some nice pieces in Rick Nash and rookie goalie Steve Mason to continue building around. But Columbus hasn't reached the point where it could realistically hope to upset a far superior Detroit team that demonstrated how much separates them by toying with the Jackets through the first three games of the series.
Still, the Jackets had a chance to make up for that embarrassment in the home finale.
Columbus played with the kind of desperation teams trying to avoid sweep have to, and forced the often disinterested looking Red Wings into actually breaking a sweat for the first time. That's probably a good thing for the Red Wings, if only because it reminded them that there is some work involved in defending a Stanley Cup. Detroit was pushed to the limit because the Jackets came back twice from two goal deficits, but it was all for naught thanks to Fredrik Modin's mindless play in the waning minutes of the third period when the teams seemed destined for overtime.
Modin, who wore a savior's hat temporarily for the Blue Jackets when he scored to tie the game at 5-5 late in the middle period, but he was the guilty party on a too many men on the ice call that led to Johan Franzen's winner for Detroit with 57 seconds remaining in regulation. Modin jumped over the boards and played the puck before Jakub Voracek reached the bench, an automatic penalty that had disaster written all over it because it gave the league's best power play a chance to put the game and series away.
That's the kind of gift talented teams like the Red Wings tend to capitalize on, particularly when they have the added incentive of getting several days off if they do.
Pittsburgh had a chance to earn a similar vacation, but the Penguins got frustrated after failing to break through in a dominant first period and let the Philadelphia Flyers take the game away from them. The Penguins had a great start with a 15-5 shots margin in the opening 20 minutes, but they couldn't solve the Flyers often maligned goalie Martin Biron and now have to return to Philadelphia for a sixth game.
The Penguins failure to put away Philadelphia should be a concern, because the Flyers have largely outplayed them in the series and Biron has been as effective as Penguins goalie Marc Andre Fleury. The two had a pretty good duel on this night, but it paled in comparison to the battle taking betwen the netminders in New Jersey's 1-0 win over Carolina.
The lesson here is that it doesn't pay to get Martin Brodeur mad. The Devils goalie blew a gasket on the ice after a last second goal beat him Tuesday, but rebounded by turning away 44 shots, 35 of them in the third period. Meanwhile the Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward wasn't exactly a slouch, making 41 saves, just one too few to prevent Carolina from facing elimination at home this weekend.
They won't be alone. With its 4-0 loss in Anaheim, San Jose is on the brink of the brink of another playoff flop, one that will hurt more than the others because the Sharks finished first overall and theoretically are built for a long run. But key players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have gone missing in action again, and the Sharks have played most of this series looking like they would rather be somewhere else.
With the Ducks looking more like the team that won the 2007 Stanley Cup with each passing day and now holding a 3-1 series lead, chances are the Sharks won't have to wait long for that to happen.