Lightning Strikes Twice (Rangers Nonce)

first_imgNEW YORK – It wasn’t supposed to end this way. The New York Rangers, whose regular-season play earned them the National Hockey League’s best record, cruised to victory in the first round of the playoffs, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games. That part of the script went according to plan.The next series proved tougher, with the Washington Capitals pushing the Blueshirts to the brink, taking a commanding 3 games to 1 lead before the Rangers came back in spectacular fashion to capture three in a row and win the series in 7.Every game was decided by a single goal, two of the games in sudden-death overtime, including the seventh and deciding one. Ranger fans took the win any way they could get it – but is that really what one would expect from the team with the best record in hockey?Next up, the explosive Tampa Bay Lightning, notorious for their high-powered offense. Splitting the first two at the Garden – Rangers took Game 1, but Tampa Bay tied it up – the teams headed South, where the Lightning took a 2-1 series lead. The Rangers returned the favor by splitting in the Sunshine State, and headed back to New York for Game 5.  But the lightning shut down the Rangers to grab a 3-2 lead, putting the President’s Trophy winners in the all-too-familiar backs-against-the-wall position. They pulled off yet another miracle in Tampa for Game 6, managing to score 7 goals (6 really, one was an empty-netter).  But they couldn’t manage a single goal at home, for Game 7.The first period was a chess match. The second, more action-packed, as chants of “Henrik! Henrik!” filled the Garden – cheers for Ranger star goalie Henrik Lundqvist – who masterfully fended off the Lightning’s onslaught, but finally proved mortal in the third period.With less than two minutes into the third, Alex Killorn scored on a backhander. But these were the Rangers, after all.  They’d tie things up and win it in overtime, right? Not this time. With about eight minutes left in the game, the Lightning’s Ondrej Pallat snapped the puck into the net for goal #2, and the Garden’s fans knew their beloved Rangers season was slipping away.Well done, lightning, but in what other major sport does the best team not dominate? For all intents and purposes, the Rangers season should have been over with three weeks ago, in Game 5 versus the Caps. Only an improbable game-tying goal with a minute left in the game, followed by the game winner in overtime, kept the Rangers from being manhandled by the Caps in 5. Again – in what other major sport would that happen to the team with the best regular season record?Congratulations, Tampa Bay, you played very well and deserved to win. But with apologies in advance to those who wouldn’t trade the NHL for anything, there’s a reason most people rank football, baseball, and basketball above hokey (the missing “c” is not a typo).TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img

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