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Rangers lamenting missed opportunity after elimination

Loss to Senators in second round leaves New York disappointed, frustrated

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The pain felt by the New York Rangers after being eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs was still evident Thursday.

New York lost 4-2 to the Ottawa Senators in Game 6 on Tuesday, the latest bitter end to a season for the Rangers, who have been a Cup contender for the past several seasons without winning a championship.

"Big-time disappointment," said forward Rick Nash, who scored three goals in 12 playoff games after 23 in 67 regular-season games. "I thought we had a good opportunity with the position that we were in. The shock factor is still there."

The Rangers outplayed the Senators for large parts of the series, but lost Games 2 and 5 in overtime after giving up the tying goals with less than two minutes remaining in the third period, something that will stick with them throughout the offseason.

"You blow two leads like that, you're going to have a really tough time winning that series," New York center Derek Stepan said.

Video: NYR@OTT, Gm2: Pageau completes hatty to tie game

New York was 27-4-0 when leading after two periods during the regular season but 5-2 in the playoffs.

"We couldn't close out games," Nash said. "I think we had a good chance to win Game 1 and 2, we lose it under five minutes. It was kind of the trend; when we played in Ottawa we gave away games. … Most of the year we could close out games. There were a few instances where we gave up late goals ... a few breakdowns on the ice, but it's still tough to digest."

New York made the conference final three times in four seasons from 2012-15, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014, when they lost in five games to the Los Angeles Kings. But the Rangers were defeated in the first round last year, by the eventual Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, and the second round this year.

Video: OTT@NYR, Gm6: Zibanejad breaks in, roofs wrister

"As a group, I think we understand that we've been real close [to winning the Cup] and just haven't been able to get it done," Stepan said. "We just focus in on trying to be better. I think expectations always get higher when you go further and when you don't get back to where you were, it's difficult. ... We were that close to going back to the Eastern Conference Final."

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was hard on himself for allowing the late goals that led to the losses in Games 2 and 5 but said the season wasn't a total failure.

"I think the last two days here I haven't slept much," Lundqvist said. "You think a lot about the game and what you could have done differently. Looking at the series, we did a lot of good things, but in the end they made some plays that were the difference. ... It's going to hurt for a while.

"Look at this team, and if you ask me, 'Did we have a chance to win this year?' Absolutely. I believe in this group, I believe in what we have in this room, but we came up short and I think it's important to spend some time to analyze why and try to correct it for next year.

"In the end, there's a lot of teams that aren't playing going into the playoffs and especially the second round, so there's definitely some good things here, and we should feel good about that. But at the same time, we came up short on our goal here to go all the way."

Video: OTT@NYR, Gm6: Lundqvist lays out to rob Karlsson

With the margin for error in the playoffs thin and a few mistakes making the difference in the series, coach Alain Vigneault had trouble believing the Rangers wouldn't be in the conference final, which starts Saturday.

"We all believe we should be still playing. We're not," Vigneault said. "It's very, very disappointing. It is going to take some time to get over."

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