The New York Rangers magical season finally came to an end on Friday evening, as they were defeated 2-0 by the Tampa Bay Lightning. For the first time in franchise history, the Rangers dropped a Game 7 on home ice after winning all seven of their previous matchups at Madison Square Garden. Coming into tonight, the Rangers obviously had history on their side, but the Lightning showed that none of the numbers or statistics mean anything come puck drop.
What's even more disappointing is that Henrik Lundqvist gave the Rangers every change they needed tonight, but they weren't able to find a way to crack the Lightning. Just like Game 5, the offensive well went completely dry, which made life pretty easy for Ben Bishop at the other end of the ice. Right from the opening faceoff, this game took shape pretty quickly with both teams closing their gaps, and leaving little room for creativity in the offensive zone.
As expected, neither team was able to get on the board in the opening 20 minutes, and the low shot totals were a good indication of how that period unfolded. The second period was much more of the same with only 16 shots being exchanged between the two teams, and we headed into the third period in search of a Game 7 hero. Unfortunately, the Lightning were able to get the first bounce of the period, and came away with the opening goal 1:54 into the third period.
Alex Killorn's shot was able to make it through a ton of traffic in front of Henrik Lundqvist, and he wasn't able to track the puck quick enough. The puck wound up barely slipping through Lundqvist's five hole, and with him being so deep in the crease, the puck snuck over the goal line. With the game already having that "next goal wins" type of feeling, this first goal was absolutely deflating.
Following the goal, the Rangers started to pick up their play quite a bit, and started to tilt the tables back in their favor. With plenty of chances coming in the offensive zone, the Rangers couldn't seem to get the extra bounce they needed for the tying goal. After numerous surges in the offensive zone, the Lightning were able to catch a quick break up the ice, and the line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov burned the Rangers yet again.
Johnson was able to find Palat cutting in on the far side, who was wide open, and Palat ripped a shot past Lundqvist to give Tampa a 2-0 lead. As if the first goal was deflating enough, the second goal was absolutely crushing with a little under nine minutes remaining in regulation. At the four minute mark, Alain Vigneault elected to pull Lundqvist for one final push, but nothing was able to come of it.
After it was all said and done, the Rangers season came to a disappointing end as the Lightning shutout the Rangers 2-0 at MSG. This one will take a while to get over, just like last year's loss in the Stanley Cup Final, but you have to be proud of what this team accomplished.
It sucks coming up short yet again, so let's do this again next year, shall we?