It’s been just about a week since the Rangers’ playoff run came to an abrupt and disappointing end in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. For many, in a spring with such high hopes and heightened expectations, the loss is one that still stings and will likely continue to hurt for the days and weeks to come.
But as tough as the loss was, it was still quite a run on Broadway, one which captivated New York City and brought the team within one period of the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight year.
Here’s a look back at some of those moments worth savoring for Rangers fans from the 2015 playoff run.
Hagelin Sends Rangers to Round 2
In round one, the Rangers downed the Penguins in five games in order to advance to the second round of the playoffs. Though the series only went five games, it was more hotly contested than the score sheet suggested. Each of the final two games went to overtime, and both times the Rangers emerged victorious.
In game four, it was Kevin Hayes who put the Rangers into the driver’s seat as his overtime winner gave the Rangers a commanding 3-1 series lead. Back at home for game five, it was Carl Hagelin who was that evening’s hero as his marker at 10:52 of the first overtime propelled the Blueshirts into the second round against the Washington Capitals.
The Rangers’ second round series against the Capitals didn’t exactly start the way they would’ve hoped, as they found themselves trailing the best-of-seven series 3-1 after the first four contests. Heading back to Madison Square Garden for game five, the Presidents’ Trophy winners needed a win to avoid the embarrassment of getting eliminated at home in five games in just the second round.
Trailing said fifth game in the waning minutes of regulation 1-0 thanks to a Curtis Glencross goal midway through the third period, the Rangers’ season was quickly slipping away. Then, with 101 seconds to play, Chris Kreider beat Braden Holtby with an innocuous looking shot from the top of the near circle to give the Rangers a pulse and send the game to overtime.
Captain Ryan McDonagh capped off the dramatic comeback at 9:37 of the first overtime to keep the Rangers’ season alive which sent the series back to D.C. for game six.
Stepan Up Big Time
After the Rangers found a way to win game five, they headed back to Washington and stole game six to force an all decisive game seven back at home with a trip to the Eastern Conference Final on the line. After Alex Ovechkin – who guaranteed a Capitals win in game seven – opened the scoring in the first period, Kevin Hayes knotted the score at one early in the second period on the power play.
Despite chances at both ends, New York and Washington headed to overtime in game seven, and after the Capitals owned the better of play for the majority of the first half of overtime, it was Derek Stepan who netted the winner 11:24 into the extra frame.
It was the second consecutive year that the Rangers had come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series.
The Last Hurrah
The final win of the season came in game six of the Eastern Conference Final series against Tampa Bay. Trailing the series 3-2 and needing a victory to extend the season just one more game, the Blueshirts came out and responded with a decisive and resounding 7-3 win to force a game seven back at home.
Derick Brassard led the way with a hat trick, while JT Miller (1-3-4) and Rick Nash (1-3-4) both turned in four point performances of their own.
The Rangers went on the drop game seven to the Lightning by a final score of 2-0, thus ending their season five wins shy of the Stanley Cup.
Not the Cup, but still Memorable
The Rangers did not win the Stanley Cup the way many thought and predicted they would. That doesn’t mean, however, that there weren’t still plenty of memorable moments from the spring of 2015 in Rangerstown.
Those who want to remain bitter can do so if they please, but seriously, what Ranger fan could watch Stepan’s overtime winner in game seven against the Caps and not smile?
Oh, right. This guy…
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) May 14, 2015
Jake Gittler is now in his second season as a contributing member of The Hockey Writers. After spending the 2014-15 season working in Communications for Adirondack Flames of the AHL and covering the New York Rangers here for The Hockey Writers, Jake’s coverage has been switched over to the Colorado Avalanche for the 2015-16 season. Jake can be reached via email at Jakegittler@gmail.com, or on Twitter @Jgittler_hockey.