NEW YORK (AP) — Once the Ottawa Senators failed to knock out the top-seeded New York Rangers when they had the chance at home in Game 6, the chances for a big-time upset collapsed around them.
New York had the best record in the Eastern Conference in the regular season, and the second-best overall mark in the NHL, but it didn't matter after the eighth-seeded Senators topped the Rangers in Game 5 to put them on the brink of elimination.
The Senators just couldn't finish. Given one more chance to move onto the second round, Ottawa came up a bit short Thursday night and dropped a 2-1 heartbreaker in Game 7.
"We put ourselves in a good position going home. We couldn't get it done," forward Jason Spezza said. "It's a tough loss. We really thought we could win the series. We felt like we had a chance to beat these guys. It's really disappointing right now. We had chances to tie it up.
"You could play that game over again, it could be a one-goal win by us. It was so close all series."
Ottawa's first two wins in the series came in overtime, and the Senators were tied 2-2 heading back to New York for Game 5. They showed they weren't intimidated at all by the bright lights of Broadway and beat the Rangers 2-0 in that one — giving them two road wins in three tries in the series and four victories at Madison Square Garden this season.
So even after the tough 3-2 home loss on Monday in Game 6, the Senators had every right to believe they could finish off the Rangers in New York.
Ottawa fell behind 2-0 in the second, got within a goal later in the period when Daniel Alfredsson scored, but couldn't get another puck past goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the third despite intense pressure in the Rangers' zone in the final minutes.
"We felt good about coming here, and we knew it wasn't going to be easy," Spezza said. "They are the top team in the East. They weren't going to roll over for us. We gave it our all.
"We have a great group of guys. That's what makes it so hard to lose. We feel we are building something that can be special. We're not a pretty group. We scratch and claw our way into everything. There was never any quit all year."
While the Senators were all even after four games, they didn't hold the lead in any of them — except for the overtime goals that ended their two victories. They mustered a total of 13 goals in the series, but needed one more to get Game 7 into overtime.