Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
Although it came as an initial surprise, the fact that the Rangers were a top team in 2011-12, they entered the playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s top seed and were amongst the league’s top contenders to hoist the Cup.
After fighting off a feisty Ottawa team in Round 1, New York met Washington in the second round for the third time in four years. The Rangers again were favorites, but found themselves tied in a 2-2 series in Game 5, dangerously close to falling behind 3-2 before heading back to Washington for Game 6.
The Capitals, up 2-1 with less than 20 seconds remaining, took a high-sticking double minor. Brad Richards would eventually score with less than 10 seconds on the clock, and Marc Staal would finish the Caps off almost instantaneously in the extra frame.
This all came five days after Marian Gaborik’s triple-OT winner in Washington to previously tip the fortunes of the series.
The Rangers would eventually win the series in seven games, and it seemed as if New York had a date with destiny in the Stanley Cup Final.
Waiting in the Eastern Conference Final were the Rangers’ most bitter of rivals, the New Jersey Devils. The Devils, a No. 6 seed, bounced the Philadelphia Flyers in five games the round before. The Rangers, once again, were heavy favorites.
New York took Game 1 in 3-0 fashion, but New Jersey stole an away game 3-2 on Garden ice two nights later. The Rangers would again claim a 3-0 victory in Game 3 before the Devils claimed Game 4.
Game 5 again was the swing game, but as was the case in Round 1 with Ottawa, the Rangers failed to capitalize and found themselves on the short end of a 3-2 series. Game 6, an obvious must-win, took place in Jersey and was decided in overtime.
In the end, it was Adam Henrique’s dagger that ended the Rangers’ seemingly storybook ride to what was supposed to be the Stanley Cup. And to add insult to injury, it was against the team they loathed the most.