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Rangers fall to Lightning in Game 7, won't return to Final

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Alex Killorn celebrates with his teammates after netting a goal in the third period, which ends up being enough as Rangers don’t score once.

LIGHTNING 2, RANGERS 0

The Presidents’ Trophy won’t get the Rangers a trip to the White House.

That visit is reserved for champions, and the Rangers will not be crowned this postseason as they finally lost a Game 7 in their building, falling to the Lightning, 2-0, in the winner-take-all Eastern Conference finals matchup at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

Alex Killorn broke a goal-less draw 1:54 into the third when he skated into the slot and backhanded a shot that squeaked through Henrik Lundqvist’s legs with Dan Boyle and Valtteri Filppula in front of net possibly blocking his vision. Ondrej Palat scored on a wicked wrister from the left circle at 11:17 beating Lundqvist (23 saves) over his right shoulder. The Rangers lost three home games in the series and also lost 2-0 in Game 5 at home. Ben Bishop made 22 saves for his second shutout of the series.

The Rangers scored just four home goals in the series while scoring 17 in Tampa.

Their season ends in heartbreaking fashion as they failed to get back to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Kings last season. Tampa Bay will play the winner of Saturday’s Game 7 between Anaheim and Chicago. It is the first time the Rangers lost a Game 7 at the Garden, falling to 7-1. The loss broke a streak of 10 straight wins in home elimination games.

Alain Vigneault decided to dress seven defensemen, benching fourth-line forward James Sheppard in favor of defenseman Matt Hunwick, who hasn’t played since Game 5 of the first round against Pittsburgh.

The move ostensibly was made as insurance for captain Ryan McDonagh, who remained on the bench for the first several minutes of the game then went to the locker room with trainer Jim Ramsay. McDonagh had recently been missing morning skates for what Vigneault termed “maintenance” and he didn’t practice Thursday. McDonagh returned to the bench in the middle of the period and took his first shift at 12:41. He played just three shifts for a total of 1:47 in the first.

The Rangers had most of the possession early on and forced Bishop into a few tough saves. Bishop didn’t see Rick Nash’s point shot until late at 6:41 but was able to make the save, and he swallowed a Derek Stepan right-circle rip at 7:10. Kevin Hayes had a quality opportunity in the slot at 8:17 but missed the net.

Past the halfway point of the period it was Lundqvist’s turn to be tested. Moments after Kevin Klein blocked Filppula’s shot, Steven Stamkos tipped a point shot right in front of net and Lundqvist got a piece of the deflection with his glove, sending it into the air. It fell slowly and dangerously close to goal as Lundqvist lunged back toward his net, but the puck fell on top of the netting and rolled to the ice.

At 16:39 an Andrej Sustr point shot was deflected by Filppula’s stick blade along the ice right in front of Lundqvist, but the goaltender was able to make a stick save on the quick deflection. Lundqvist made nine saves in the first while Bishop made five.

Lundqvist was forced into a difficult save by former teammate and ex-Rangers captain Ryan Callahan just 49 seconds into the second period, a shot from the right which forced a kick-save with the right pad.

J.T. Miller found an oncoming Nash in the slot for a golden chance but Brenden Morrow was called for hooking Nash at 3:41 before he could fire off a shot. The only decent opportunity on the ensuing power play was a McDonagh blast from the center-point which was saved by Bishop.

The Rangers earned another power play at 7:46 when the Lightning were called for too many men, which occurred when Lundqvist sent the puck into the neutral zone during a line change. Again, not much happened for the Rangers on the man advantage other than a McDonagh right-circle shot which Bishop gobbled up.

Derick Brassard, the Game 6 star with a hat trick and two assists, rifled a shot off a Dan Girardi drop pass from the right circle at 13:27 which Bishop saved with his right pad. Lundqvist made a save with the heel of his glove on a Jason Garrison shot which came off a cross-ice pass from Nikita Kucherov.

The best opportunity of the night up until this point came with 1:34 left in the second when Lundqvist made a lightning-quick reaction with his right pad to deny Tyler Johnson right in front. Kucherov found Johnson all alone in the low slot with a pass from behind the net but a sharp Lundqvist turned him away.

Lundqvist had 19 saves through two periods. McDonagh was much more active in the second, playing 12 shifts for 8:23.

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