Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football.
The Rangers will play another Game 7 this postseason, another do-or-die game because they weren't ready to do enough last night in Game 6.
They had the puck plenty. They had chances on the power play. But there was a distinct lack of bite in the Rangers' game, an edge that rarely has been missing since October, and boy was it a bad night for that.
From Jason Chimera blasting by a flat-footed Anton Stralman to draw a penalty just 1:13 in to Ryan McDonagh's weak clearing attempt on the subsequent draw to another awful night with the man advantage, this was not the Rangers team you're accustomed to seeing.
"We really came up short," Henrik Lundqvist said. "We have to regroup."
The good news after a no-show night like this one is that this Rangers team has regrouped, often, this season and this postseason. They got to 109 regular-season points and overcame a 3-2 series deficit to the Senators by being able to toss aside tough losses, though none as weakly played as last night's.
Part of winning the Eastern Conference regular-season crown is getting the last shot at home, and the Rangers will get that on Saturday night. They used Game 7 to good effect against Ottawa, playing a commanding game to advance.
A two-day break until Game 7 benefits the Rangers, too. Some of their key players looked worn down last night, unable to muster the energy to counter the Caps' surges. McDonagh was a bit off after a remarkably smooth postseason.
Brad Richards, one of the stars of Game 5, was more like the guy who "stunk" in Game 4, according to his coach. Richards won just 10 of 28 faceoffs, losing one after an icing and John Tortorella's timeout that led to Chimera's second-period goal.
Tortorella made a power-play switch, putting Dan Girardi on the first unit in place of Derek Stepan. But Girardi wasn't mobile enough to shake the Caps' penalty killers, and the five Ranger advantages looked as sluggish as the rest of their game.
The coach had choice words to describe his team's power play, especially during a crucial four-minute minor in the second. "It killed us," he said.
There is a bit of good news: This team has shaken off losses before in this sojourn through the first round and the second. Nothing has come easily to a team that needs only to view a few of the miscues from last night to realize that even one shift without attention to detail leaves them scrambling.
When your success comes from work ethic and grit, it's easier to get it back than if you've been blowing teams out. The Caps' two-goal lead entering the third was the largest margin for either side after 40 minutes in the series, and the home side earned every bit of it by being more relentless.
Tortorella had calmly informed reporters on Tuesday that his team would not be overconfident. "That's not the kind of team we are," he said.
They were not the kind of team they normally are last night, which may inspire Tortorella or one of his locker-room leaders to remind the Rangers over these next two days.
Tortorella may never reveal what he says to his charges, but everyone knows how it's delivered. He made sure to note he's "not hugging people here left and right" after the great Game 5 escape and there will be nothing of the sort after last night's game.
If this Rangers team still has the will, they have a way. All the work they did during the regular season gives them a chance on Saturday night.
It will have to be a different team that shows up Saturday in the Garden. The one that lost Game 6 didn't look very familiar.