Facing playoff elimination in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals Friday night at The Prudential Center, the Rangers erased an early 2-0 deficit and forced overtime, but New Jersey's Adam Henrique scored off a scramble in front of Henrik Lundqvist 63 seconds into the extra period to end the Rangers magical season with a 3-2 loss, and a 4-2 series defeat.
After another dreadfully slow start which landed them in a 2-0 hole in the first period, the Rangers rode the solid goaltending of Lundqvist and a pair of timely second-period goals to pull even before the second intermission, and set up a thrilling finish in Newark.
Moments after Lundqvist excelled in helping the Rangers kill off a New Jersey power play, Ruslan Fedotenko crashed Martin Brodeur's crease to hammer a Ryan McDonagh pass into the cage at 9:47 of the second period to cut the visitors' deficit in half. McDonagh circled behind the Devils net and warpped a pass into the crease area where Fedotenko beat everyone to the puck to score his second goal of the playoffs---and of this series.
Then four minutes later Brad Richards won an offensive zone faceoff and McDonagh worked the puck to Dan Girardi on right wing. Girardi fired a shot towards the net that deflected off Ryan Callahan's leg and just inside the right post, tying the game 2-2 at the 13:41 mark. The goal was Callahan's sixth of the playoffs---third in this series---and was well-earned for the team captain who had a huge period in both ends of the ice, along with linemate Brandon Dubinsky.
The Rangers' two goals in the middle stanza offset New Jersey's pair in the opening period. Ryan Carter, who scored the game-winner in the wild Game 5 at The Garden on Wednesday, opened the scoring at 10:05, banging in his fourth post-season goal after Lundqvist had made a fantastic save on Stephen Gionta's breakaway. Ilya Kovalchuk then drilled his seventh of the playoffs---and fifth on the power play---off a tic-tac-toe passing sequence with Dainius Zubrus and David Clarkson at 13:56.
Lundqvist was far from fault on either of the Devils goals, and, in fact, his outstanding play between the pipes held the Rangers in the game until the team found its footing early in the second period.
After outshooting the Devils 13-7 in the second period, the Rangers had the territorial advantage for much of the scoreless third period when they outshot New Jersey 8-5. Brodeur made one sensational save, lying on his side, to deny Richards during a Rangers power play midway through the period, and used his stick to break up two good scoring chances for Artem Anisimov, including one when the Russian center bulled to the net with a defenseman hanging on his back.
The Rangers started with a strong first shift in overtime, though failed to generate a shot on goal. The Devils then came back the other way and created a wild scramble in which Lundqvist made two saves before the puck squirted to a wide-open Henrique who buried his third playoff goal into the gaping cage at 1:03 to bring an abrupt halt to the Rangers season, two wins shy of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals.