The New Jersey Devils exited the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference way earlier than they hoped and expected.
And they went out kicking and screaming.
It was hardly a graceful departure for the reigning conference champions. One year after a surprising run to the Stanley Cup finals, they are gone without getting a chance to defend their title in the postseason.
The inevitable elimination came Sunday with a 4-1 road loss against their biggest rival, the New York Rangers - the club the Devils knocked out in a six-game series last year to set up a finals matchup with the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
There was no fanfare this time, no handshake line, confetti or fireworks. No, the end came with New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer off the bench, having been ejected in the final seconds for the latest round of unsportsmanlike conduct directed at the officials.
Referee Chris Rooney had already heard more than enough. The Devils had been assessed a pair of unsportsm...