TAMPA – The New York Rangers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, losing 2-1 in Game 6 of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Final at Amalie Arena.
The Rangers won Games 1 and 2 against the Lightning but then lost four straight games for the first time all season.
They were the second seed in the Metropolitan Division after finishing the regular season with 52 wins and 110 points.
New York advanced to the conference final by coming back from 3-1 down against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round and from down 3-2 against the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round.
It was the first time the Rangers were in the playoffs with a best-of-7 series since the second round in 2017, when they lost in six games to the Ottawa Senators.
New York was swept 3-0 in a best-of-5 series against Carolina in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
Potential unrestricted free agents: Ryan StromeF; Andrew CoppF; Frank VatranoF; Tyler MotteF; Kevin RooneyF; Greg McKeggF; Justin BraunD; Keith KinkaidG
Potential restricted free agents: Kaapo KakkoF; Julien GauthierF; Sammy Blais, F; Vitali Kravtsov, F; Libor HajekD; Alexandar GeorgievG
Potential 2022 Draft picks: 4
Here are five reasons the Rangers were eliminated:
1. Road weary
The Rangers lost all three road games they played in the conference final.
They won Games 1 and 2 at home to take a 2-0 lead in the series. They had a 2-0 lead in the second period of Game 3 on the road, but held it for only 66 seconds before Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov scored a power-play goal.
The Lightning came back to win Game 3, 3-2, and then won Game 4, 4-1. They stopped the Rangers’ eight-game home winning streak by winning Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, 3-1, and then New York’s road struggles continued in Game 6 with a 2-1 loss.
The Rangers were 2-8 on the road in the playoffs and 8-2 at home.
2. Dead even
The series started out so well for the Rangers. They scored nine goals in the first two games, eight while skating 5-on-5; five in Game 1 and three in Game 2.
But New York scored only one more 5-on-5 goal in the series. It did not get any in Games 3, 4 and 6.
Ryan Lindgren scored at 5-on-5 in the second period of Game 5 to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead, but they could not hold it and lost 3-1.
3. Palat’s all folks
Lightning forward Ondrej Palat was, as coach Jon Cooper called him, a “deadly assassin.”
Palat scored with 41.6 seconds remaining in the third period of Game 3 to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 win. He deflected Mikhail Sergachev‘s shot from the point and scored with 1:50 remaining in the third period of Game 5, a 3-1 victory.
His pass in Game 4 sprung Nikita Kucherov for a breakaway goal that gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead at 13:07 of the second period. Palat then assisted on Steven Stamkos‘goal at 4:56 of the third period and scored at 19:51 for the 4-1 final.
Palat also had assists on both Tampa Bay goals in Game 6.
He finished the series with eight points (four goals, four assists). The Rangers did not have anybody with more than five points.
4. Stars go missing
Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox each carried eight-game points streaks into Game 4.
Neither got another point in the series.
Chris Kreider had points in six straight games going into Game 5. He did not get a point in the last two games, or a shot on goal in Game 6.
Artemi Panarin was shut out in Games 5 and 6.
The Rangers’ best skaters had their offense dry up right when they needed to deliver some signature performances.
5. Fatigue factor
The Rangers played 20 games in 40 days and it caught up with them.
Gerard Gallant said he thinks the offense dried up because of the fatigue that set in.
Zibanejad was not buying it, saying fatigue was not a factor. But the lack of offense suggests that maybe New York was gassed at the end of the series.