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Lightning ends Rangers' season with shutout in Game 7 of Eastern Conference final

The New York Rangers look on after losing

The New York Rangers look on after losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden on Friday, May 29, 2015. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

After reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1994 before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in five games last spring, the Rangers' playoff mantra had been "Change the Ending."

Well, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night, the ending did change.

But rather than getting another chance to possibly hoist the Cup, the Blueshirts' season came to a quiet finish with a 2-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden.

After 40 goals combined in six games, all it took was one to send the Rangers home for the summer and the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final against either the Chicago Blackhawks or Anaheim Ducks.

Alex Killorn's backhander at 1:54 of the third period slid past Henrik Lundqvist through a screen by Valtteri Filppula and the Blueshirts couldn't generate enough offense to solve Ben Bishop. The Lightning's goaltender allowed only four goals in Tampa Bay's four games at the Garden.

It was the first time the Rangers lost three home games in one series since being ousted by the Islanders in 1982.

Lundqvist (23 saves) was pulled with more than 3:30 to play to no avail.

The Rangers' best chances came midway through the third period from Derick Brassard's line, but Ondrej Palat scored off a rush from the left side after a pass from Tyler Johnson, beating Lundqvist past his extended glove at 11:17 for the insurance goal.

The odds had favored the Rangers, who won the Presidents' Trophy with 113 points to secure home-ice advantage throughout the postseason, and who eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games and the Washington Capitals in seven to reach this point. But home ice and experience didn't help.

The Rangers were 7-0 alltime in Game 7s at the Garden and had won each of the last 10 games when facing elimination at home. Those numbers are now in the archives.

This unpredictable series was far more of a challenge. "Right now we're playing against a team that's a lot like us," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said before the game. Vigneault was 5-1 in Game 7s.

Special teams made a difference. In the second period, the Rangers failed to convert on two power plays. Brenden Morrow went to the box for hooking Rick Nash at 3:41 and the Rangers had an extra skater when the Lightning had too many men on the ice at 7:46. But the Rangers totaled only two shots on Bishop, both by Ryan McDonagh, who played 8:04 after skating only three shifts in the first.

The Lightning put on more pressure in the second half of the period, as Lundqvist stopped Nikita Kucherov and then made three saves on one shift, including a glove stab on Jason Garrison. With Johnson alone in front Lundqvist denied him with 1:34 left in the period. Lundquist totaled 19 saves after two tight-checking periods.

The Rangers, who seemed as if they did not want to make a mistake, had just 11 shots on Bishop through two periods.

Ryan Callahan led all skaters with three shots after the first, and six after the second.

With McDonagh injured or not feeling well, the Rangers dressed seven defensemen for the first time all season, including Matt Hunwick, who hadn't played in any playoff games this year. Forward James Sheppard was a healthy scratch. McDonagh, who missed practice on Thursday, did not take a shift until 7:19 left in the first and played just 1:47, as Keith Yandle shifted to play with Dan Girardi.

In a feeling-out opening period, Tampa picked up the forecheck near the end, and the horn sounded with the Lightning leading in shots 9-5. Lundqvist's best save came when he quickly raised his glove to knock a deflected shot over the crossbar.


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