This wasn't the end Zdeno Chara envisioned for his 23rd NHL season.
Chara's Capitals fell in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Boston Bruins, the franchise where he spent 14 seasons before signing with Washington in December.
That meant the veteran defenseman and former longtime Bruins captain had to go through the customary handshake line after Sunday night's series-clinching Game 5 and congratulate his ex-teammates as they advanced to the next round while his season ended.
Bruins winger David Pastrnak described his postgame moment with Chara as "emotional," but the 44-year-old understandably used a different adjective Tuesday when asked about going through the handshake line.
"At that point, it's obviously a disappointing feeling," Chara said in his end-of-season video conference. "I think we all shared the same feeling of being disappointed by being eliminated. But you pay the share of respect to your opponent, so obviously congratulated all the Boston Bruins players and coaches to moving on."
Chara shared words with Bruins veterans like Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Krejci after Game 5 and spent over a decade with all of those players aside from Pastrnak, so there's no shortage of mutual respect.
Chara's NHL future is uncertain, as he'll hit free agency again after signing a one-year contract with the Capitals. The league's oldest active player, whose family is still based in Boston, admitted it was difficult being away from them this season and said he'll take a few days to talk things over with his wife and kids before deciding whether to return for a 24th season.
"Looking forward to seeing my family and my kids again every day," Chara said. "But definitely, (my family) will be a factor going into the decision I'll be making in the future."
As for his former team: The Bruins await the winner of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Islanders in Round 2, with New York holding a 3-2 series lead entering Wednesday's Game 6.