Rangers’ last hope lasted just 21 seconds : TAMPA, Fla. – For a fleeting moment, Rangers had hope. Frank Vatrano had broken Saturday’s game with a power play goal against all conceivable arguments to tie-up. The Rangers were completely defeated by Lightning. They were in the game only because of the talent of Igor Shesterkin. They looked tired and battered and broken and in every way felt like their season was about to end.
And in the place of a shot by Vatrano, that all changed. It was suddenly the same film that Rangers directed all post season. Where they win an elimination game, they have very little business to win. Where Shesterkin gives them some magic, a puck sneaks by Andrei Vasilevsky and the Rangers find themselves driving back to New York, a game away from the Stanley Cup Finals.
This rejected any reasonable analysis of hockey that the game was tied. But it fits right in with any concept of this team.
And for 21 seconds, the Rangers believed.
Adam Fox later said, “Do it 1-1 late in the third, you’re clearly thinking you’ve got a shot.” “Like you said, we’ve done it before.”
But this time the end of the film was different.
“This time,” Fox said, “we weren’t able to get over it.”
The hard lesson of this Eastern Conference eventual defeat for the Rangers is that the Lightning is simply on another level. And he learned it for the last time on Saturday.
Rangers’ last hope lasted just 21 seconds
Because while they were still riding high above Vatrano’s goal, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov were breaking the ice. And before the Amalie Arena crowd could be properly removed, Stamkos flicked it back to life, beating Shesterkin and handing the 2-1 lead back to the Lightning.
“I don’t know what happened,” Rangers coach Gerard Gallant said. “They got a goal. We fought hard, came back and tied the game on our power play goal. They come down and get a two-on-one and net it.”
It was a quick, cold slap on the face. Rangers’ resilience was what got them so far. Only Shesterkin could get them so far. There will be no happy ending here. Only a dead tired group of players line up to shake hands, trying to shake off reality.
“We fought there in the end and tied it up,” Fox said. “But haven’t found it yet.”
For the past 40 days, Rangers have been walking on the edge of a cliff and managing to stay upright no matter what.
For 21 seconds, it looked like they might somehow do it again.
But in the end they fell.
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