NEW YORK-- That's all, folks.
The New York Rangers' season came to an end on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden after dropping Game 6 by a score of 4-2 to the Ottawa Senators, losing the Eastern Conference semifinal series by the same score.
In their first home playoff loss since Game 3 of the first round, the Rangers were unable to slow down Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, who recorded a goal and an assist despite playing with two hairline fractures in his left heel.
All signs pointed to this series going to a Game 7. The home team had won each of the prior five games and Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist had been hard to beat in elimination games.
In his career, he posted a 15-5 record with a 1.74 goals against average and .945 save percentage. At home, he was even better at 10-1/1.05/ .965 marks.
But the Senators came out far more poised than they had in Games 3 and 4. Within 4:27 of the opening puck drop, they had the lead after Karlsson's shot was deflected past the glove of Lundqvist by Mike Hoffman.
"We came out slow, it’s as simple as that. We can’t put ourselves in a hole, but we did and I don’t know why," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. " We were all pretty focused in here, saying the right things. But it’s a difference between saying and doing, and that showed up on the ice.”
Ottawa did plenty to try and give a spark right back to the Rangers, though.
The Senators gifted the Rangers with six minutes worth of power play time shortly after their opening tally, but a tentative, nervous looking Rangers power play could not find an equalizer.
The momentum gained from the extended penalty kills fueled the Senators to a second goal in the first when Mark Stone ripped a wrister past Lundqvist clean with 5:22 left in the period.
"It’s not the way we obviously wanted to start," Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said. " Throughout this series, we started every game fairly well. At the end of the day the four games we lost in this series it’s as simple as them making one more play defensively or one more play offensively. "
Anderson finally broke 13:30 into the second after Mats Zuccarello sprung Mika Zibanejad on a breakaway opportunity. The former Senator stayed cool as a cucumber, lifting his chance over Anderson and into the back of the net to halve the deficit and give the Rangers new life.
Karlsson sucked the air right back out of Madison Square Garden two minutes later when he popped a pass from Bobby Ryan over Lundqvist to restore the Senators' two-goal lead.
The Rangers desperation that needed to come out in the first two periods emerged immediately in the third. Less than a minute in, Chris Kreider stuffed home a semi-breakaway through Anderson to cut the deficit back down to one.
He almost had the equalizer less than five minutes later on a two-on-one opportunity. But he whiffed on the shot.
The Senators invited even more pressure when they were whistled for too many men with 13:31 remaining. Once again, New York's special teams were anything but that.
"Our power play was well prepared," Vigneault said. "Our guys knew where the opportunities would come from and at the end of the day we didn’t execute quickly enough. Tonight we had a couple of looks but it obviously wasn’t good enough."
It was in Anderson's hands after that and sure enough, Ottawa's netminder was unbeatable despite the hosts ramping up the pressure. He stopped 37 of 39 saves on the night, allowing Jean-Gabriel Pageau to add an empty-netter in the final minute.
The Senators are through to their first Eastern Conference final since 2007. That season, they made the Stanley Cup Final but lost in five games to the Anaheim Ducks.
"Right now all you feel is disappointment and it’s a numb feeling. It’s not a great feeling," Lundqvist said after his 22-save effort. "You realize how much work and how many hours you put into this to put yourself in this spot to get this chance. You started in July, last summer, to start to train and to prepare. It was right there for us."