NEW YORK (AP) - Time and again throughout a frustrating series, Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr warned his teammates about the quick-striking Buffalo Sabres' offence.
When they get one, they shoot for two. When they net a pair, they hunt for a third. It's all about wearing down opponents and knocking them out.
As they did in Game 1 during a second-period onslaught, the Rangers got another harsh lesson from the Presidents' Trophy-winning Sabres. But after this one, there is no chance to make it better or learn from mistakes. This time, Buffalo's outburst ended the Rangers' seemingly promising playoff run.
New York carried a 1-0 lead into the second period of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series Sunday. Buffalo erased that in short order with four goals in the middle frame, then hung on for a 5-4 victory that won the best-of-seven matchup 4-2.
It set up a meeting with the Ottawa Senators and sent the Rangers to a summer vacation they thought would start much later. Jagr said this was the first time since he won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles with Pittsburgh in 1991-92 that he believed his team was on the road to a championship.
"I felt this team could go all the way," said Jagr, who scored three goals in the series. "We made a lot of mistakes. Not rookie mistakes. Mental mistakes that cost us the hockey game."
"It doesn't matter how we played. We lost the hockey game. We had a chance, too. We had them in the first period."
That's when Michael Nylander scored with a nifty move to his backhand, beating goalie Ryan Miller with 2:50 left in the period. The Rangers carried a lead into the second period despite being outshot 11-8 in the opening 20 minutes. A few of those shots came late to make that margin closer.
Dmitri Kalinin got the Sabres even 1:29 into the second and Jason Pominville put them in front 1:24 later. Paul Mara tied it for the Rangers at 4:40, but the Rangers would soon be chasing again.
"We said all series long, we can't just give it to them," Jagr said. "You have to be careful. We didn't lose it, we just gave it to them. They are a great team, but they aren't better."
Buffalo figured out how to get to goalie Henrik Lundqvist, and the strategy was to shoot the puck off New York defenders, or at least get tips of their own.
It worked three times, and the Sabres netted four goals in a span of 9:46 to put the Rangers on their heels and set them up for the knockout.
"In other games we had guys back-checking," Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan said. "What brought us success the last little while was taking away time and space. I don't know if we were desperate, trying to go off page, but sometimes playing with your backs against the wall can make you do funny things."
Although Shanahan wasn't laughing.
At 38, he is looking to win a fourth Stanley Cup title. He came to the Rangers last summer on a one-year deal and said he enjoyed his time on Broadway. He didn't speak one way or another when asked if a 20th NHL season was in his plans.
He said that his agent and Rangers general manager Glen Sather would surely talk, and that pieces were in place that could bring him back to New York.
Shanahan just wasn't ready to talk about himself so soon after the club's elimination.
Most around the Rangers' room said there wasn't a carry-over from the Game 5 loss, when Chris Drury tied the game for Buffalo with 7.7 seconds left in regulation before the Sabres won in overtime. But New York just didn't have enough depth to beat the team with the NHL's best record in the regular season.
The Rangers came in with bluster, but went out at home, where they had won nine straight, including the first four in the playoffs.
"It really boils down to us being a lot closer than people gave us credit for in the first place," coach Tom Renney said of the sixth-seeded Rangers. "As Lindy (Buffalo coach Ruff) mentioned to me in the post-game, we scared the hell out of them."