NEWARK -- It was sudden, it was bitter, and in coach John Tortorella's mind, Friday night's 3-2 overtime loss to the Devils in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals -- which ended the Rangers' season -- was a learning experience.
"I love our team, I love our [guts], I really like what we have here," Tortorella said before hinting that there will be some offseason changes. "I don't think it'll be the same, there's always changes, but what our group has developed is the mind-set we need. It showed tonight. But we don't get it done."
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Tortorella spoke about 40 minutes after Adam Henrique poked in a loose puck at 1:03 of overtime for the series-winning goal. Henrik Lundqvist had stopped Ilya Kovalchuk's shot in a goalmouth scramble, but the puck eventually ended up behind him and on Henrique's stick.
Ryan McDonagh, who had two assists and emerged as a first-rate defenseman this season, said: "I blocked it. I don't know where it went from there. It's a scramble. You just hope it gets cleared or a whistle or something. I didn't even see it go in."
"It's the worst feeling you can feel, especially an overtime loss like that," Callahan said. "Just like that, your season's over. We fight hard all year, we fight back in this game, showed a lot of character. It's a hard way to end it."
It was the Rangers' fifth overtime game in the playoffs and the third loss for the Blueshirts, who had outlasted the Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals in rugged seven-game series before this battle against their Hudson River rivals.
"I couldn't be happier how we responded after the first period," Tortorella said. "I thought it was going to end quick in overtime, and I thought it was going to be us."
Instead, it was the Devils who came back late for the second consecutive game and won the series after being down 2-1 after three games.
The Rangers will collect their thoughts and belongings and scatter after earning 51 regular-season victories, 109 points and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
"We've played too many playoff games, played a couple game 7s," Tortorella said. "I thought there were some really good things, but we still have quite a bit to learn as far as desperation when you get to this third round. You won a couple rounds, that isn't good enough. We still have to find a way to win another round. I don't want this organization to sit still."
Trailing 2-0 on a goal by Ryan Carter and a power-play goal by Kovalchuk, the Rangers did not sit still in this do-or-die game. At 9:47 of the middle period, McDonagh's wraparound try at the right post bounced off Martin Brodeur and to Fedotenko, who tapped it in. Brad Richards, who had no goals in the series and failed to clear the puck on the series-winner, was credited with an assist.
Just 3:54 later, Brandon Dubinsky won a draw in the Devils' zone back to Dan Girardi, who wristed a shot that glanced off the leg of Callahan, changed direction and dropped low past Brodeur's glove, off the right post and into the net to tie the score at 13:41. But the Rangers couldn't finish.
"It doesn't feel right, the way we competed all year," McDonagh said. "It was a tough one to swallow."