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The Rangers Are Done Being Underdogs

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The New York Rangers’ season ended on Saturday night with a 2-1 loss to the Lightning, and it’s only natural to feel like they let something slip away. They won the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final while playing their best hockey of the year, then jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Game 3 before Tampa Bay took command and never let up. There are some moments that will haunt fans all summer: Ryan Strome whiffing on the puck with a wide-open in net in Game 5, the deflating Jacob Trouba penalty that disrupted a four-minute power play in the third period of Game 3, or the long-range Steven Stamkos shot that beat Igor Shesterkin for the Lightning’s first goal in Game 6 — a weaker shot than any number of ones Shesterkin successfully turned away. Tampa Bay won four straight games and deserved every one of them; by the end of the series they were a clear step faster than the Rangers. (Maybe two steps.) But it wouldn’t have taken much to swing the series the other way, or at least gotten it back to Madison Square Garden for a Game 7 on Tuesday night.

Yet as far as season-ending losses go, this one’s pretty easy to take. Make no mistake, Tampa badly outplayed the Rangers in the deciding game, and as has so often been the case this season, Shesterkin kept his team in a game that easily could have been a blowout. But the Rangers weren’t supposed to even make the playoffs this season in the eyes of many experts. They weren’t supposed to rally back from a 3-1 series hole against Pittsburgh in round one. And they weren’t supposed to come back against Carolina after losing........

© Daily Intelligencer

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