Originally posted on The Rangers Tribune  |  Last updated 5/25/12

All great things eventually must come to an end. 

For the New York Rangers tonight at the Prudential Center in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, that "great thing" was their 2011-12 season - their best since winning the Stanley Cup in 1994. To have it all suddenly end in an overtime period of a game in which the Rangers battled back from a 0-2 deficit to force an extra period in the first place is heartbreaking, and will likely be stinging for a while knowing that they were just two wins away from reaching the Finals. There's obvious disappointment in that locker room right now, as well as among the fan base, but both have all the reason to walk away with heads held high despite being eliminated on this night. 

Reaching the Conference Finals is an accomplishment beyond any expectations that were set for this hockey club going into the 2011-12 season in October. To think that they went from a 2-2-2 start to this, in a blue-collar fashion I might add, is extraordinary and provides a great amount of hope for the franchise moving forward. If this was the product of the current Ranger roster, just imagine what the results will be from an improved roster next season. The New York Rangers are not far off from winning it all. 

That being said, three hours ago the Blueshirts entered this game with hope of forcing a seventh as their season sat on the line, but unfortunately it did not unravel as so.

As it had been all series, the first period was completely controlled by the New Jersey Devils, who grabbed an early 2-0 lead in the game. At 10:05, it was Ryan Carter finding and depositing a loose puck through a scrum in Henrik Lundqvist's crease for the tilt's first tally. Stephen Gionta started the play, as he swooped in past a stumbling Michael Del Zotto to get a shot from in close that was originally stopped by Lundqvist. The Rangers failed to clear the rebound and with Henrik down and out, Carter put the puck in the net. 

A little over three minutes later, the New Jersey Devils went on the powerplay with Ruslan Fedotenko being called for tripping, and they quickly formulated pressure and made a beautiful passing play to set up Ilya Kovalchuk's one-timer goal at 13:56. So again, the Rangers found themselves taking jabs to the gut early, but this wasn't unfamiliar to them one bit. 

The Blueshirts came out and dominated the remainder of the game, from the second period on through to the third. They began to get pucks in deep past the hashmarks, worked on the forecheck and threw everything they could at Marty Brodeur in net. Finally, at 9:47 of the second, Ryan McDonagh made a strong play to carry around the net and set up Ruslan Fedotenko in front to cut the Devils' lead in half. Then, at 13:41, Dan Girardi would take a shot from the point that redirected off the leg of captain Ryan Callahan and into the net to bring this game to a 2-2 tie. 

The Rangers would continue to push in the third period, but Marty Brodeur was the difference and to an overtime period we would go. Unfortunately that overtime period was short-lived, and abruptly ended with rookie Adam Henrique battling through a flurry of swatting sticks to poke home the series-clincher to send the Rangers home and the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals. 

It's the fact that the entire season ended on a sloppy scramble in the crease makes the loss that much tougher to swallow. It wasn't a pretty play or an outstanding individual effort; it was a dirty rebound goal on a broken play that ended it all. 

Regardless, the Rangers showed heart tonight, just as they have all series and all season long. They made up for the two goals they allowed early. They owned their opponent for two of three periods in the offensive zone. Hell, they were even the better team in overtime until the Devils rushed down ice just that one time. This resilient Ranger team gave everything they had tonight, but it simply was not enough to force a seventh game in the series. 

At the same time, however, you would've liked to have seen more out of some of the top guys. Marian Gaborik was nowhere to be found in this game, Brad Richards was also very quiet besides the prime scoring opportunity he blew in the second period, and Michael Del Zotto continued to be a liability on defense. In a do-or-die game like this, these are the guys that must step up and lead the way, and they did not do that tonight. 

Ryan Callahan, Ruslan Fedotenko, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and several others did, so they certainly deserve some credit for their effort out there. It's not a coincidence that the players who always brought the 110-percent effort all season were the ones to do exactly that in the playoffs as well. 

We'll be detailing this Rangers' season from both a team perspective and an individual perspective often in the weeks to come here, but for now I shall leave you with this:

Be proud of the 2011-12 New York Rangers. As head coach John Tortorella said, they played with "balls" all season and gave us fans much to applaud about. The memories tied with this campaign go on and on and will never be forgotten, that's for sure. The future is extremely bright and the franchise will only continue to solidify itself as one of the best in coming seasons. But this group that packed up for good on this night played with much pride and represented the city and the fans extremely well. 

So to the New York Rangers of 2011-12,

Thank You.

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