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playoffs

Five reasons the Rangers were eliminated

Lundqvist's poor performance, Penguins' speed hurt New York in first-round series

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

PITTSBURGH -- The New York Rangers knew what was coming. They couldn't stop it.

The Pittsburgh Penguins steamrolled into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as winners of 14 of their last 16 games while averaging four goals per game. The Rangers thought they had a great chance to slow down the Penguins with their experience, their goaltender and their history of knocking them out of the playoffs the previous two seasons.

They couldn't have been more wrong. They, frankly, didn't stand a chance.

The Penguins eliminated the Rangers from the Eastern Conference First Round in five games, finishing them off with a 6-3 win at Consol Energy Center on Saturday.

"We just got beat," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "We got beat by the better team. They were better than us. All series."

Here are five reasons why the Rangers were eliminated:

1. The King didn't play like royalty: The Rangers' chances to slow down the Penguins hinged on the typical all-world play of goalie Henrik Lundqvist. He just didn't have it in the series.

Lundqvist was injured in Game 1 when Staal's stick went through his mask and hit him in the right eye. He returned for Game 2 and was good with 29 saves in a 4-2 win, but he allowed 12 goals on the last 71 shots he faced and didn't finish the last two games.

Lundqvist gave up four goals on 18 shots in 26:04 in Game 4. He allowed six goals on 23 shots in 40 minutes in Game 5.

"The way the game was played, especially the past two games, there were a lot of big opportunities right in front," Lundqvist said. "You need strong goaltending. You need a goalie that's going to make a lot of big extra saves, and I was not able to come up with that."

Video: Lundqvist On Game 5 Loss

2. No scoring, no chance: As hot as the Penguins were heading into the series, the Rangers had to know that unlike last season, they would need to score more than two goals per game to win the series. They averaged two goals per game. They lost in five.

The Rangers scored 10 goals in the series, including one in two games at Madison Square Garden. They got no points from Eric Staal and Ryan McDonagh.

Mats Zuccarello, New York's leading scorer in the regular season (61 points in 81 games), had a goal and an assist. He didn't have a point in the last three games.

J.T. Miller didn't score a goal, and his three assists all came in Game 2.

For Derick Brassard, the only point he had in the last three games of the series came on a secondary assist of a window-dressing power-play goal for Chris Kreider at 5:38 of the third period Saturday. That's the one that made it 6-3.

3. Power outage: The Rangers' scoring woes stemmed from their woeful power play in the series.

They went 2-for-19 on the power play, and one of them was scored at 5-on-3 in Game 1. They failed on 13 straight power plays before Kreider's goal in the third period Saturday. They also gave up a shorthanded goal in Game 1.

The Rangers had trouble on their power-play zone entries all series. When they actually did get into the zone, they had trouble setting up because of the Penguins' pressure. They didn't get enough shots either; they had 28 the entire series, eight of which came in Game 5.

Video: Penguins win Game 5, advance to Round 2

4. No kill zone: The Rangers problems on the power play were magnified by their issues trying to defend the Penguins power play.

New York successfully killed 13 of 21 Pittsburgh power plays in the series. The Penguins nearly scored as many power-play goals (8) as the Rangers had total goals.

New York's biggest problem on the penalty kill was Pittsburgh's biggest strength on its PK: The Rangers had no pressure and couldn't stop the Penguins from making plays. Pittsburgh was 7-for-16 on the power play in the final four games after going 1-for-5 in Game 1.

5. Couldn't keep up: A year ago, when the Rangers ousted the Penguins in five games, they did so because they were faster and deeper, particularly on defense with Kris Letang and Olli Maatta unavailable to Pittsburgh because of injury.

This year, the Rangers were slower and thinner to the point that coach Alain Vigneault inserted defenseman Raphael Diaz for Game 5. It was his first and only NHL game this season. It was a decision that wreaked of desperation.

The Rangers were burned by the Penguins' speed in transition and couldn't use their own speed to get through the neutral zone enough to create traffic and opportunities in front of Pittsburgh's net.

"We were breaking out OK; it was when they got an opportunity when we turned it over or had a bad read…they'd come back and hurt you and score," Marc Staal said. "They've been doing that for a long time and they did that to us all series long."

New York's lack of secondary scoring also became apparent as the series progressed.

Pittsburgh got six points from its fourth line of Matt Cullen, Tom Kuhnhackl and Bryan Rust in Game 5. Dominic Moore's goal Saturday was the only point from the Rangers' fourth line in the series.

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