The what-ifs were there right after the 2-1 shootout loss. What if Marian Gaborik had taken the thrid shootout attempt rather that Olli Jokinen, who had played 11:03?

                    What if Ryan Callahan and Sean Avery hadn’t suffered knee injuries?

                     What if the Rangers had been better in games when they went past regulation, instead of 4-11, when you count overtime and shootouts?

                     What if the Rangers had played better at home, instead of 18-17-6? What if they picked up an extra point or two in the previous 81 games, especially in the dreadful days of mid-season?

                    “If we'd had some consistency throughout the year, we wouldn't be in this spot,” said captain Chris Drury. “We’re obviously pretty disappointed to come down to a shootout, the last game of the year to get knocked out from that. Again, I think we feel really bad for Henrik, one of the best games I ever seen him play.”

                     Workhorse Lundqvist, who played in 73 games, finished the season with a 34-27-10 record. “Going to the shootout I was pretty beat up...I was dead tired.”

 

advertisement | advertise on newsday

***

                    Coach John Tortorella, who has condemned the shootout as an inappropriate way to decide games---much less a playoff spot---held his fire yesterday.

                    “Both teams go through it,” he said. “I’m certainly not gonna whine. Honestly, when it got down to that, I thought we had the advantage. Henrik was terrific today, but when it got down to it, it didn’t work out.” Tortorella, who surely will be back next season, also didn’t moan, at least publicly, about the interference call on P.A. Parenteau that led to the tying goal by Matt Carle in the third. “It doesn’t matter,” he said you get penalties one way or another. It doesn’t come down to one specific play; we lost the hockey game.”

 

***

                      Flyers captain Mike Richards said allowing the early goal to Jody Shelley didn’t really affect his teammates, who he thought “wore down” the Rangers…The 87-point finish was the worst for the Rangers since the 69-point campaign in 2003-04…The Rangers finished with 222 goals and allowed 217…Marc Staal, the Rangers’ top restricted free agent, who is expected to be signed to a long-term contract this summer, played a game-high 29:16….Dan Girardi, another RFA, played 26:04.   

 

***

                      Here's more about the game, plenty to come tomorrow and later this week....   

                                            

advertisement | advertise on newsday

                          For two weeks, as the Rangers scrambled to make a last-ditch 7-1-1 playoff run, they played as if they had nothing to lose.  Yesterday, against the Flyers in a game that they couldn’t afford to lose, a game in which Henrik Lundqvist was sensational with 46 saves, they lost that aggressiveness.

                   As a result, with a 2-1 shootout loss to the Flyers in the regular-season finale, they missed the playoffs for the first time in five years.
                  “We’ve been in the must-win situation for so long, we should have approached it that way,” said Brandon Dubinsky. “In the end this was Game 7 and nobody wants to make that mistake. We were a little bit tentative. I think that could have been one of the reasons for them having so many chances and shots against us.”
                   One of the reasons that the Rangers, who finished in ninth place in the East, had struggled all season was a decided lack of scoring, and that fatal flaw reared its head again yesterday.
                   Jody Shelley’s tip-in of Michal Rozsival’s point shot 3:27 into the game got the Rangers off to a positive start, but they ended with just four shots in the first period and 13 to the Flyers’ 30 through 40 minutes, as thanks to Lundqvist, they clung to the slim lead. Then with P.A. Parenteau in the box for interference, Matt Carle fired in a rebound to tie the score at 6:54 of the third. “It was such a horse--- call, it’s tough to swallow,” said Parenteau. “I don’t even remember what I did.”
                    Still, the Rangers held out hope that they could prevail in the shootout, especially with Lundqvist’s outstanding play.
                    “I think we worked hard, but they were better tonight,” said Lundqvist, who allowed shootout goals to Danny Briere, on a deke that forced him to the ice,  and Claude Giroux, who hesitated, then beat him through the five-hole. “They made good moves,” said Lundqvist. “I’m just so empty now, I don’t know what to say. Asked if shootouts were an especially cruel way to end the season, he muttered, “I guess.”
                     Although Parenteau scored to tie the shootout at 1 after Briere’s goal, Brian Boucher, who had foiled Erik Christensen in the first round, got his pad on Olli Jokinen’s backhander in the third round to send the Flyers into the post-season. Tortorella had held 42-goal scorer Marian Gaborik out till the fourth round, which never arrived, and refused to discuss the move afterward.
                     In the end, had Gaborik, Christensen, Jokinen, Dubinsky, Vinny Prospal and Chris Drury provided more punch, this might have ended in regulation. “It’s disappointing to end it this way,” said Gaborik, who tried to skate through defenders all afternoon, but managed just two shots on Boucher.
                      “I felt like we couldn’t hold onto pucks too long,” said Lundqvist. “The fourth line was our best line the last two games; they played great, but it’s going to be tough to win two games against Philly when your fourth line is your best line.” That line of Shelley, Artem Anisimov and Brandon Prust had seven shots and managed to provide the most pressure in the Flyers zone.
                   “We knew they were going to come hard and I thought we gathered ourselves through the second and third, but we just didn’t have the puck enough,” said coach John Tortorella. “I thought they (the fourth line) were really good underneath the hashmarks. We just didn’t get enough from our other lines.” Sounds like a theme for a lost season.