The Islanders were headed back to Long Island regardless of the outcome of Monday night's Game 7, but they were all hoping to be returning home as the victors instead of having their season end sooner than they wanted. They also wanted to extend their stay at Nassau Coliseum just one round longer.
They battled back in the third period -- something they've done so many times throughout the regular season -- but the battle tested Capitals just had more in the tank and came away on top.
The Islanders made great strides in their long term goal towards winning the Stanley Cup. The team's core experienced what it is was like to battle through a seven-game series. Players like Scott Mayfield and Matt Donovan stepped up for the battered Islanders' blue line and Jaroslav Halak proved that he is the goaltender that the Islanders needed for quite some time.
And now the Islanders are hungrier than ever to get back to the playoffs and learn from the experience.
"You use every year as a learning experience and this is not I will forget," John Tavares said. "It's not one any of us will forget. This should really fuel us for next season. I know for myself, this isn't where we wanted to be."
But, as good as those positives are for the future, it doesn't change the disappoint that the fans have for how the season ended. And no one blames them for that. The end of the Islanders' season means the end of hockey on Long Island.
That's what makes the loss sting so much.
It's the end of an era that for die-hard Islander fans who have been through thick and thin with the team. From the older generation of fans, who saw the Islanders win Stanley Cups in the 1980s and would later bring their kids to the Nassau Coliseum, to the younger generation of fans, who grew up going to Islander games and called the Coliseum their second home.
The building has been special to the players too, despite the lack of modern amenities and they wanted nothing more than to give the Nassau Coliseum a few more games to reward the fan base.
"We're just disappointed we weren't able to keep this going," Tavares said. "We're disappointed for [the fans]. I don't think we talked about it a whole lot, but we knew what this season meant playing at the Coliseum and how they responded for us was absolutely tremendous. We couldn't have asked for anything better."
Now the Islanders, and their fans, will go through a familiar routine. The players will do their break up day interviews and then head out for the summer. The fans will spend the rest of the spring watching other teams compete for the Stanley Cup and debate on social media the season that was, and the one to come.
Hey, we're only four months away from next season, but when it does finally arrive it won't be played on Long Island and the realities of the Islanders move will really set in.
There is a lot of hope and promise on the horizon for the Islanders, but it doesn't take away the pain of Monday's Game 7 loss that ended their season and tenure at Nassau Coliseum.