Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

The Rangers had all of the history on their side. Instead, they now are history.

And they have no one to blame but themselves.

Friday night's 2-0 loss to the Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals not only was their third defeat at the Garden in four tries, it was their second consecutive shutout loss to a goalie who was supposed to be Tampa Bay's weak link.

Instead, Ben Bishop and the Lightning are in the Stanley Cup Final and Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers are going home without a Cup for the 21st straight season despite a Presidents' Trophy in their case. Great regular season, good playoff run, dismal finish.

As Lundqvist said in the gloomy losing dressing room, "Obviously, losing three at home, you're not going to win the series. It's not going to happen."

No, obviously not.

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You also are not going to win when you don't score. Just as it did in winning Game 5 by the same score, the Lightning built a defensive shell around Bishop and dared the Rangers to find a way through the forest of bodies in front of him.

And just like Game 5, the Rangers failed to do so.

"They did a good job clogging it up," said captain Ryan McDonagh, who had been playing with an undisclosed broken foot. "We didn't get enough pucks behind them. We didn't get into the hard areas to try to get those rebound goals."

Said Rick Nash: "They clogged the shot lanes." Said Martin St. Louis: "There were a lot of guys in front of that net."

True, but the Lightning was the highest-scoring team in the NHL in the regular season, one not known for its prowess on defense. The fact that it was able to stymie the Rangers using that style was a surprise and a disappointment.

Result: No more 7-0 all-time record in Game 7s at the Garden. No more overall six-game winning streak in Game 7s. No more 10-game home winning streak in elimination games.

No more games this season for the Rangers.

"We have nothing to hang our heads for here," McDonagh said. "The effort was there throughout the series and throughout the playoffs. We just came up a little bit short here."

Said Dan Girardi: "It's going to be tough for a little bit knowing we had a really good chance to have a really good run."

Lundqvist was brilliant most of the night until Alex Killorn somehow squeezed a backhand shot between his pads 1:54 into the third. After that, the Lightning became even more committed to defense.

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The Rangers deserve enormous credit for what they have done the past four seasons: winning at least one series all four years, winning at least two series in three of those years and winning three last year before falling to the Kings in the Final.

The rallying cry entering this year's tournament was "Change the Ending." They did, but in the wrong direction.

"A lot of emotions," Nash said. "I'm pretty upset. In a career you don't get too many opportunities to play on a team like this and get that opportunity to win a championship. It's pretty frustrating right now."

Rangers fans certainly can relate to that, which Lundqvist acknowledged: "As a fan, they see what we go through. They go through it as well emotionally."

All due credit to the Lightning, which made its first Final since 2004 -- with several former Rangers along for the ride -- and demonstrated a chameleon-like ability to alter its style.

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The Rangers were the Bolts' equal through six games, then forgot to score again.

"Time usually heals things," St. Louis said. "You'll get a chance to reflect. But it's not going to feel good for a while."