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Five reasons Rangers were eliminated from playoffs

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- The once-promising and successful season for the New York Rangers ended Friday at Madison Square Garden because they couldn't score.

Goals were hard to come by during most of the Rangers' run in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. There were the three games against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final when they combined for 17 goals at Amalie Arena, but the Rangers scored 28 goals in their other 16 games, including none in Games 5 and 7 at home against the Lightning.

The Rangers trailed their best-of-7 second-round series against the Washington Capitals 3-1 and were down 3-2 to the Lightning. New York couldn't keep climbing.

"We could probably look back at it and say we chased too many series and we just ran out of juice," Rangers center Derek Stepan said Friday after the 2-0 loss that ended their season.

Here are five reasons the Rangers were eliminated:

1. Couldn't score at home

If the Rangers played their road game at home in the Eastern Conference Final they might be moving on to the Stanley Cup Final. They didn't even come close.

New York averaged 5.67 goals per game in three games at Tampa Bay, but 1.00 goals per game in four games at home, none after the second period of Game 2.

The Lightning won 2-0 in Games 5 and 7; goalie Ben Bishop made a combined 48 saves, including 22 in Game 7.

"The difference was we were able to score early on the road and that obviously made them open things up a little bit," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "The last two games at home we weren't able to find the space and generate the looks to get anything past their goaltender."

2. A dozen wounds that stayed open

Although in the end the Rangers were able to force Game 7 with a 7-3 win in Game 6, the fact they allowed 12 goals combined in Games 2 and 3, and lost, came back to haunt them.

Henrik Lundqvist
Goalie - NYR
RECORD: 11-8
GAA: 2.11 | SVP: .928

Goalie Henrik Lundqvist was excellent for five games in the series; that he was subpar for two can be looked at as the difference.

Lundqvist allowed 12 goals on 66 shots in Games 2 and 3. The Rangers came back from 4-2 and 5-4 in Game 3 to force overtime, but Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov scored at 3:33 to win it.

"Like us, [the Lightning] can play two different games," Lundqvist said. "They can play a tight game and they can go and score. It's painful."

3. Power outage in Game 7

The Rangers didn't have many chances to score in Game 7; hardly any in fact. But they did get two power plays in the second period when the score was 0-0. They did nothing with them.

The first came at 3:41, when Lightning left wing Brenden Morrow was called for hooking Rick Nash. The Rangers got one shot on goal and had two shot attempts blocked.

The second power play came at 7:46, when the Lightning were called for a too having too many men on the ice. The Rangers had one shot on goal and four shot attempts on the power play.

"[We missed] opportunities on the power play," Nash said. "I think that's a huge difference in the game."

As a result it was a huge difference in the series.

4. No answer for the "Triplets"

The Rangers were able to contain Tampa Bay's "Triplets" line of Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat at times, but they couldn't stop them from making a difference.

The Lightning took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series in part because the "Triplets" combined for eight goals and 16 points. The Rangers held them in check in Games 4-6, giving up two late, meaningless goals in Game 6 to Kucherov and a total of six points to the line.

But when the Lightning needed a spark in Game 7, Johnson, Palat and Kucherov stepped up.

They had some odd-man rushes turned aside by Lundqvist, none better than his save on Johnson's point-blank one-timer at 18:26 of the second period. But that was a sign of things to come; when they got an odd-man rush in the third period, Johnson found Palat for the insurance goal at 11:17.

The "Triplets" line combined for 11 goals and 24 points in the series.

5. Nash needed to do more

Nash was a difference-maker with two goals and an assist in Game 4 and four points in Game 6. Without those performances maybe the Rangers never force Game 7. He was powerful and physical; "a beast," according to teammate Derick Brassard.

But too often in the series, and the entire playoff run, Nash was on the perimeter and not making a difference. That's unacceptable.

Rick Nash
Left Wing - NYR
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 14
SOG: 69 | +/-: 8

There is no better example than Game 7, when the Rangers needed Nash more than they maybe ever needed him because of how difficult it was for them to use their speed to get chances off the rush. Nash doesn't always have to generate his offense off the rush. He can do it off the wall, the cycle, or by going to the net.

He did none of that in Game 7 and finished with one shot on goal and three others that were blocked in a series-high 21:58 of ice time. He was being double-shifted because the Rangers dressed 11 forwards, but he couldn't come up big when the Rangers needed him to.

Nash did not have a point in 11 of 19 games in the playoffs. He scored in four games.

"A lot of emotions," Nash said. "I'm pretty upset. In a career you don't get too many opportunities to play on a team like this and get that opportunity to win a championship. It's pretty frustrating right now."


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