I thought the Rangers were a strong candidate to win the Cup this year because they reminded me so much of last year's Bruins. They had a brilliant goalie, a sound defensive system, and could get goals from multiple guys on various lines.
But a defensive system only works if its followed. If players don't do what they're supposed to do, if they're not where they supposed to be, the system breaks down and fails.
That's what happened last night.
New Jersey scored their first goal when Ranger defensemen Stu Bickel left the front of the net and Stephen Gionta knocked a rebound past Lundqvist. A pinching Ranger defensemen eventually resulted in New Jersey's second goal. The Devils' third goal came when Ryan McDonagh made a desperate pinch, didn't get to the puck in time, the Devil's went up ice and Travis Zajac scored. It was a soft goal for Lundqvist to allow.
New York eventually tied it up. Thanks mostly to lucky bounces and Martin Brodeur losing a puck in his skates (as he tends to do from time to time). But another defensive miscue, this time by winger Carl Hagelin, led to New Jersey's winning goal in the 3rd. Ryan Carter was left all alone as Hagelin was focusing on a 2-on-2 puck battle along the boards and not on the dangerous central area of the ice. Carter went to that area, the Devils won the puck battle, and Carter scored.
The Rangers seem to have forgotten how they won 51 games and 2 playoff series. And when they were down 2-0 with 50 minutes of hockey left to play, they started getting desperate and impatient. New Jersey took advantage.
Then there's a guy like Gaborik, who technically scored last night but that goal was a result of Brodeur kicking the puck into his own net. Apart from that gift, Gaborik hasn't scored a point in this series. He had 3 goals and 4 assists against Washington. The Rangers need their 40+ goal scorer to score. Or at least help others to do so.
Give credit to New Jersey, though. They've played true to themselves. They know who they are and they're doing what they're good at. Their best players are playing their best. And now they're only one win away from the Cup Finals.
Game 6 Friday night in Newark.