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third period for a change.GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Instead of getting ready
for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, in what would surely have been a
rocking Madison Square Garden, the New York Rangers quietly packed up
their lockers and headed toward summer vacation.
The pain and disappointment of Friday nights season-ending loss to the
Los Angeles Kings was still palpable Monday as players went through exit
interviews at the teams suburban practice facility, but one by one they
took positive looks back on their unexpected post-season.
After all, it had been 20 years since the Rangers played with the Cup on
"Its a little early," star goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "I am proud of
the team and what we did and how we overcame different challenges -- not
only in the past couple of months but throughout the entire season.
"We have a lot to be happy about, but right now youre still disappointed
about not winning."
Had they been able to score in overtime on Friday or in either of the
first two games of the finals in Los Angeles -- which were both decided
in overtime -- New York would have hosted Game 6 on Monday night.
The series would have been 3-2, one way or the other, and Rangers fans
would have been firmly behind their club as it moved closer to a
"The last two or three days have been even worse than today," forward
Carl Hagelin said. "Now its kind of faded off. Its enough crying now.
You cant cry much more.
"It couldve been a game tonight, but were going to have to live another
The Rangers have reached the conference finals in two of the past three
seasons, and now have taken it a step further. Only a few veterans in
their room, such as Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis, had gotten to
the finals before this run.
The collective experience they now share as a group could bode well.
"Its hard to swallow right now, but give it a couple of weeks," forward
Derek Stepan said. "I think well look back and well see how much fun we
had as a group and be able to look at it and say, Hey, we played some
really good hockey.
"Weve got a good balance of guys. The organization did a good job of
building this team, getting the young guys andd getting the old guys. Jesus Gamez Jersey. Weve got a good blend."
As is always the case at the end of the season, changes will be made
before the team gets back together for training camp in about three
One player who likely wont be there is Richards, who has become a prime
candidate to have his contract bought out by the Rangers to give the
club much needed salary cap relief. New York has one remaining amnesty
buyout available, and it must be used by July 1.
The cap room that would be saved by getting Richards contract off the
books could go a long way to signing potential free agents the Rangers
have and others who could come in from other teams.
"Were going to work on putting a good team on the ice, but every year is
different," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Next years team is
going to be different, and youve got to go through the same process. Its
going to be a challenge to make the playoffs, and then you take it one
series at a time."
Richards took on a bigger leadership role after captain Ryan Callahan
was traded to Tampa Bay for St. Louis in March. His voiced carried in
the room even as his play declined as the playoff run got deeper.
Vigneault limited his ice time to fourth-line minutes in the final two
games against Los Angeles.
"If you look at Brads overall season he had a real good year," Vigneault
said. "In the final series, I dont know if it was a combination of some
other guys might have been playing a little bit better than he was, but
we had some decisions to make in Game 4 and Game 5."
No decision on Richards status had been made by Monday afternoon, and he
didnt speak to reporters to discuss what might lie ahead for him,
Vigneault excelled in his first season as coach, after he replaced the
fiery John Tortorella, and he will also be looking to win that elusive
championship. The Rangers havent hoisted the Cup since their last finals
experience in 1994. Vigneault took the Vancouver Canucks to the final
step, too, only to fall to Boston in 2011.
"Each year you play, your drive gets bigger and bigger," Stepan said.
"This group has been close, and certainly that drive is going to be
there for next year."