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Despite loss, Leafs' run inspires Blue Jays

Despite loss, Leafs' run inspires Blue Jays

TORONTO -- "The sports world is a cruel world, man."

That's what manager John Gibbons had to say about the Toronto Maple Leafs' fortunes Tuesday, a day after the hockey club blew a three-goal lead in the final 11 minutes in Game 7 of their first round series, ending its first playoff appearance in nine years.

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"It just sucks," Brett Cecil said. "They've been waiting so long, and they were so close. They give up a three-goal lead with 11 minutes left. That's when you got to step on their neck and make sure they don't end up in their own zone.

"It's a heartbreaker."

The Maple Leafs were the underdogs going into their series with the Boston Bruins, a team that is considered by many as one of the best in the NHL, and very few people even gave Toronto a chance in the series.

After falling behind 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, it looked very much like the pundits were going to be right. Then the Leafs won two straight to force a Game 7 in Boston, only to have things slip out from under them late in the final period.

"A lot of the games, that's pretty much game over," Cecil said.

"It's tough," added J.P. Arencibia. "No one wants to lose a game [like that]."

Despite the loss, everyone on the Blue Jays felt the excitement and buzz in the city because of the loyal and passionate hockey-crazed fans in the city, something that was evident every time the camera panned across Maple Leaf Square, where an estimated 20,000 fans took in the team's game on the video board outside of the Air Canada Centre.

"Yeah, you feel it," Arencibia said about the excitement in the city. "They're definitely passionate for a winner in Toronto, and the playoffs. ... You definitely feel it."

It's something that the Blue Jays players hope they'll get to experience if they can get themselves into a race for a postseason berth late in the season.

"You hear about how they used to sell out every game in '92 and '93, and the '90s. And that's what you want the city to be," Arencibia said. "People packing the stands, and us be able to feed off of them and ultimately give them what they want, which is a winning team."

Although the fan support and excitement was something that impressed the Blue Jays, they also understand the heartbreak of how it ended.

"I've never been to the playoffs in baseball, so I don't know quite what it's like, but I can definitely imagine working as hard as those guys work and getting to where there were and have it slip away," Cecil said.

"A lot of the guys are young and they're going be here next year. So there's always next year. They'll get over it, but it's going to take awhile, that's for sure."

Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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