The New York Rangers’ season came to an end on Tuesday night after a 4-2 loss at the hands of the Ottawa Senators eliminated them from the Eastern Conference semifinals in six games.
While the Senators head to the Eastern Conference final for the first time since 2007, the Rangers are left to wonder, what if?
This was a team that let multiple leads slip away, including three, two-goal leads in Game 2 and another in Game 5.
They also allowed the tying goal with 1:02 remaining in Game 2 and with 1:26 left in Game 5.
Had the Blueshirts just been able to hold on a little longer, or just win one on the road, they could have been the ones headed to the Eastern Conference finals. But they lost all three games up in Ottawa despite building favorable advantages.
Now, they are left with an overwhelming sense of regret.
“We put ourselves in a position to win almost every game. We just didn’t get it done,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. “The last few minutes there in a couple of games, like I said, it hurt us there really bad in the series. We believed until the end that we could pull it off … It’s going to hurt for a while.”
The 35-year-old performed admirably this postseason, but his .905 save percentage did not live up to his normally sterling standards. The defense in front of him did little to help, but one has to start wondering how many more chances the Rangers will have to get Lundqvist his Stanley Cup.
“Right now, all you feel is disappointment and it’s a numb feeling,” Lundqvist said. “It’s not a great feeling.”
The excruciating losses are something that will haunt team captain and defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
“I don’t know if I’ve really ever gone through a series like this where we seemed to shoot ourselves in the foot as far as closing games out or not playing well in crucial situations,” McDonagh said. “We have nobody to blame but ourselves and that’s the truth of the situation.”
It was a lot for head coach Alain Vigneault to sift through, as he tried to comprehend his team’s elimination.
“We were in all of those games, we didn’t make the defensive play when we needed to and we didn’t make the offensive play to bury them,” Vigneault said. “You have to give them a lot of credit. They played well and they deserved to win.”
It’s now 23 years since the Rangers lifted their last Stanley Cup and three since Vigneault led the Blueshirts to an Eastern Conference title in his first season with the team. Big changes could be on the way, but right now, this team has to try and move on from this loss.