The New York Rangers were trying to make it back to the Eastern Conference Final for the third time in four seasons. The Ottawa Senators wouldn't let it happen.
The Rangers lost in six games to the Senators in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round, dropping three games at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa before losing 4-2 in Game 6 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
Here are 5 reasons the Rangers were eliminated:
1. NOT GREAT LATE
Every other reason to follow will pale in comparison to this one.
The Rangers had a two-goal lead late in Game 2 but center Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored at 16:41 to make it a one-goal game, and again at 18:58, in a 6-on-5 situation with goaltender Craig Anderson on the bench, to tie the game. Pageau scored his fourth goal of the game in the second overtime to win it for Ottawa.
The Rangers had a one-goal lead in Game 5 when Anderson went to the bench with 1:34 remaining. Center Derick Brassard, who came onto the ice as the extra skater, scored eight seconds later. Center Kyle Turris scored at 6:28 of overtime to give Ottawa a 5-4 win and a 3-2 lead in the series.
"Missed opportunity," Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said after Game 6. "It's just a lot to process right now. We're going to need a few days here to wrap our head around it."
2. SLOW START IN GAME 6
Their inability to close out Games 2 and 5 meant the Rangers had to win Game 6, but they came out flat.
New York was putting passes into its skates and shooting from the perimeter into the Senators, who were desperate to block shots. The Rangers should have been the desperate team, but they didn't play like it. They chased the game the entire way and couldn't catch up.
"We came out slow. It's as simple as that," defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "We can't put ourselves in a hole, but we did and I don't know why. We were all pretty focused, saying the right things. But it's a difference between saying and doing, and that showed up on the ice."
Video: OTT@NYR, Gm6: Zibanejad breaks in, roofs wrister
3. TOO LITTLE FROM BIG GUNS
Center Derek Stepan put it on himself for what was largely an ineffective series from him, despite the fact he finished with four points (one goal, three assists).
"Individually, I'm disappointed and ashamed and flat out embarrassed," Stepan said. "It kills me that I was not able to find my game, but it is what it is, you just have to live with it."
Forward Rick Nash couldn't back up his dominating performance against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. He had one goal and one assist against the Senators. McDonagh had five points (two goals, three assists) in the series, but struggled with his puckhandling and skating in the final three games.
Forward Mats Zuccarello finished with four points (one goal, three assists), but was effective only in spurts. Forwad Chris Kreider had three goals and was trouble for the Senators when he was playing a power game, but he didn't do it enough.
Neither J.T. Miller nor Kevin Hayes scored a goal; each forward had two assists.
4. POWERLESS POWER PLAY
The Rangers may have won the special-teams battle on paper by outscoring the Senators 4-1, but two of New York's goals came shorthanded in its Game 2 loss. One of the Rangers goals was scored on the power play in Game 1, when they also gave up a power-play goal and nearly allowed three shorthanded goals.
When the Rangers needed their power play the most, in Game 6, especially in the first period, it was a momentum killer. New York went 0-for-4 on the power play in Game 6, including 0-for-3 in the first period.
The Rangers were 2-for-24 on the power play in the series and 3-for-39 in the playoffs.
"Simply not good enough," McDonagh said.
Video: NYR@OTT, Gm1: Dzingel nets first career playoff goal
5. LUNDQVIST'S STRUGGLES
In passing around blame, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist can't be bypassed; he finished the series with a .905 save percentage and a 2.81 goals-against average.
There were some goals Lundqvist could do nothing about, like defenseman Erik Karlsson's shot off of his head from the corner that won Game 1 for Ottawa, or Pageau's deflections that tied Game 2, or even Hoffman's deflection that got the Senators going in Game 6.
However, Lundqvist's series was much like his season: good at times but mixed with games when he couldn't stop the opposition from putting up big numbers. He allowed six goals in Game 2, five in Game 5 and three in Game 6.
"Right now all you feel is disappointment, and it's a numb feeling," Lundqvist said after Game 6. "It's not a great feeling. You realize how much work and how many hours you put into this to put yourself in this spot to get this chance. You started in July, last summer, to start to train and to prepare. It was right there for us. Obviously the next week or so you are going to analyze your own game and analyze what we did as a group and personally, see what we could have done better and learn from it."