LOS ANGELES -- The coping started with heartbreak and blank stares.
Dan Girardi and Carl Hagelin, still wearing their white New York Rangers jerseys and all of their pads, sat in front of their dressing room stalls staring ahead, looking blankly across the room. Derek Stepan sat alone in the corner, his arms crossed, head down. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, his jersey off but pads on, buried his head in his sweaty palms. Ryan McDonagh was shaking as he answered questions.
The scene looked like something out of a nightmare for the Rangers. It felt like one too, one caused when Alec Martinez
and the Los Angeles Kings
cut their dream short with a 3-2 double-overtime, Stanley Cup-clinching victory in Game 5 of Final on Friday at Staples Center.
Martinez scored the winner at 14:43 of the second overtime off a rebound. Lundqvist made 48 saves, but it wasn't enough.
"This is one of the worst feelings I've ever had as a player," Girardi said. "You work hard all year to get to this point and we gave ourselves a good position going into the third period. It's just a tough one to swallow. I don't even know what to say."
He wasn't alone.
"No," is all defenseman McDonagh said when asked if there is a way to describe what he was feeling.
"I've never felt any worse," defenseman Marc Staal said.
As the media were filtering out, there was Mats Zuccarello sitting in front of his locker. Martin St. Louis walked by and tapped him on the knee. Brad Richards walked by and patted him on the shoulder.
The Rangers were trying to console one another as they tried to cope with coming up short in the Cup Final, losing three games in overtime at Staples Center. The Rangers had a lead in all of them. Try swallowing that.
"We had so many chances," center Derick Brassard said. "They won the series obviously in overtime. We had to find a way to capitalize on our chances. When the game is on the line you just have to find a way and we didn't. That's the most disappointing part right now.
"Obviously they have a really good team, but I think we showed we can play with those guys, and the most frustrating part is we lost three games in overtime. Couldn't get one."
They had their chances in Game 5.
McDonagh hit the post in the first overtime. Girardi's deflected shot hit the post in the second OT. Rick Nash had a great look at an empty net only to have his shot blocked by the shaft of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov's stick. Chris Kreider had a breakaway at the end of the first overtime, but Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made a blocker save.
"You just think the next one is going to count, the next one is going to make it," McDonagh said. "We kept trying to put it on the net; didn't find the net."
Richards said the Rangers eventually will be able to look back on their run this spring and smile.
They were a dead-in-the-water team eight games into the season at 2-6-0. They were fighting to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in late March. They didn't get in until April 7.
The Rangers had to go to Game 7 to beat the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. They had to come back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. They handled the Montreal Canadiens in six games to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
Then they couldn't find any traction. They couldn't hold a lead. They couldn't catch a break.
"Tonight is not a night to reminisce, but there will be a time this summer when you look back at what an amazing run it was," Richards said. "Has to be amazing to get this far. Things have to come together. No one will ever know, except for us, how fun it was and how we came together. You lose three overtime games in the Final, it’s hard to explain."
It's even harder to deal with. The Rangers will need time to get over it.
The coping started with a nightmare.
"Right now, you're just sort of speechless," Richards said.