11:09 am May. 28, 2012
The New York Rangers' narrative for the playoffs was that they kept doing just enough to get by. But the Devils were following the same script and, in the end, they did a better job of it.
In the end, it was the Rangers who broke, losing to the Devils 3-2 in overtime Friday night and dropping the Eastern Conference final in six games. New Jersey, the sixth-seed in the Eastern Conference, plays the Los Angeles Kings, the Western Conference's eighth seed, for the Stanley Cup.
Unlike the Kings, who have compiled a 12-2 record on their way to the final, the Devils and Rangers could barely have made it look any harder. Of the 20 playoff games played by the Rangers, 13 were decided by one goal. The team team won 10 games in the playoffs and lost 10 games.
On Friday night, for the second straight game, the Devils jumped out to a big lead, only to be caught by a desperate Rangers team that was looking to force a Game 7 in New York on Sunday night. But as in Game 5 on Wednesday night, it seemed as though the Rangers spent all their energy coming back and had nothing left when the game mattered most. Last night, Adam Henrique capped a mad scramble in front of the Rangers net by jamming in the series-winning goal 63 seconds into overtime.
The Rangers were unable to match the depth of the Devils, who rolled four lines regularly through the series. It was the Devils fourth line of Stephen Gionta, Ryan Carter, and Steve Bernier that put the team on the board with the game's first goal. The line combined for four goals and five assists in the six-game series.
Goal-scoring, or a lack thereof, will be a key issue that the Rangers will have to address in the off-season. The emergence of rookie Chris Kreider will offer plenty of hope for the team heading into next year, but Marian Gaborik is likely to be face much scrutiny. The team's leading goal-scorer during the regular season, Gaborik scored only five goals during the team's 20 playoff games, and only one in the six-game series against the Devils.