Ranking 4 Most Heartbreaking New York Rangers Playoff Losses of Past 40 Years

Andrew Capitelli@@acapitelliContributor IMarch 20, 2014

Ranking 4 Most Heartbreaking New York Rangers Playoff Losses of Past 40 Years

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Thanks to some lackluster and passionless play since the NHL returned from its Olympic break, the New York Rangers find themselves in a brutal dogfight to make the Stanley Cup playoffs yet again.

    And at this point, they’ll be lucky to nab a wild-card spot, which all but guarantees a first-round showdown with either the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Boston Bruins.

    If that does indeed happen, it’s safe to say the Rangers would experience a quick and painless exit from the tournament.

    But over the course of the last 40 years, many of the Rangers’ playoff exits were anything but painless. As a matter of fact, several were heart wrenching.

    Today, we’ll take a look at them and decide which were the four most hard to take for the Madison Square Garden faithful.

    Read on after the jump.

2007 Eastern Conference Semifinal

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    David Duprey/Associated Press

    The Rangers won their first playoff series in 10 years when they swept the Southeast Division champion Atlanta Thrashers in the first round of the 2007 playoffs. Next up for New York was the Presidents’ Trophy winners, the Buffalo Sabres.

    Although the Rangers were obviously considered underdogs, in hindsight, the 2006-07 incarnation of the Blueshirts was probably the best post-lockout team the franchise had other than the 2011-12 team that reached the Eastern Conference Final.

    Jaromir Jagr’s renaissance was in full swing (96 points in the regular season), while Michael Nylander recorded a career-year and Martin Straka and Brendan Shanahan pitched in with 70- and 62-point seasons, respectively.

    In addition, stellar seasons by Michal Rozsival, Karel Rachunek, Fedor Tyutin and a younger Henrik Lundqvist made the Rangers an even harder out.

    New York dropped both Games 1 and 2 in Buffalo handedly, but a double overtime winner by Rozsival at the Garden in Game 3 boosted the spirits of the team and fans, and as a result, the Rangers were able to topple the regular season champs by the score of 2-1 in Game 4.

    Tied 2-2, New York believed it could win this series if it stole a game in Buffalo. The Rangers, up 1-0 with time running out in regulation, seemed all but set to return home with the series lead.

    But with 7.7 seconds remaining, Sabres co-captain Chris Drury beat Lundqvist to force OT, and less than five minutes into the extra frame, Max Afinogenov shocked the Blueshirts with a power-play winner.

    New York, stunned, fell 5-4 at home two nights later and were eliminated from the playoffs.

1982 Patrick Division Final

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    G. Paul Burnett/Associated Press

    The New York Islanders, at the time, were the darlings of the NHL, having won two straight Stanley Cups in 1980 and 1981. Furthermore, the Isles defeated the Rangers, their now bitter rivals, in four games in the conference final the season before en route to their second Cup.

    The Rangers sought revenge in 1982, as the two would again meet in the playoffs for the second season in a row, this time in the Patrick Division Final.

    The Rangers finished the regular season in a very distant second place to the Islanders in the division; the Islanders amassed 118 points and the Rangers 92. Nonetheless, the Rangers were a good hockey team and were motivated by the fact the Islanders won two Cups in less than 15 years of existence while their own franchise hadn’t won a single championship since 1940.

    Behind Mike Rogers, Ron Duguay and Mark Pavelich the Rangers forged a strong attack, but the loss of top defender Ron Greschner hampered the team’s backline.

    Despite the loss of Greschner, the Rangers took Game 1 in 5-4 fashion on the island, but the regular season champions fired back to claim the next three games, two of which game on Garden ice. Game 5 at the Coliseum would go to the Rangers, and heading back to the city for Game 6, the Rangers felt in control despite being up against the ropes.

    But the Islanders would win Game 6 5-3 and the Rangers would again fall at the hands of the eventual champion.

    The Rangers would lose to the Isles again in 1983 before their not-so-little brothers hoisted the Cup for the fourth straight time. The Rangers’ 1982 squad, though, was probably the best of the three teams that lost to the Isles over the three-year span.

2012 Eastern Conference Final

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Although it came as an initial surprise, the fact that the Rangers were a top team in 2011-12, they entered the playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s top seed and were amongst the league’s top contenders to hoist the Cup.

    After fighting off a feisty Ottawa team in Round 1, New York met Washington in the second round for the third time in four years. The Rangers again were favorites, but found themselves tied in a 2-2 series in Game 5, dangerously close to falling behind 3-2 before heading back to Washington for Game 6.

    The Capitals, up 2-1 with less than 20 seconds remaining, took a high-sticking double minor. Brad Richards would eventually score with less than 10 seconds on the clock, and Marc Staal would finish the Caps off almost instantaneously in the extra frame.

    This all came five days after Marian Gaborik’s triple-OT winner in Washington to previously tip the fortunes of the series.

    The Rangers would eventually win the series in seven games, and it seemed as if New York had a date with destiny in the Stanley Cup Final.

    Waiting in the Eastern Conference Final were the Rangers’ most bitter of rivals, the New Jersey Devils. The Devils, a No. 6 seed, bounced the Philadelphia Flyers in five games the round before. The Rangers, once again, were heavy favorites.

    New York took Game 1 in 3-0 fashion, but New Jersey stole an away game 3-2 on Garden ice two nights later. The Rangers would again claim a 3-0 victory in Game 3 before the Devils claimed Game 4.

    Game 5 again was the swing game, but as was the case in Round 1 with Ottawa, the Rangers failed to capitalize and found themselves on the short end of a 3-2 series. Game 6, an obvious must-win, took place in Jersey and was decided in overtime.

    In the end, it was Adam Henrique’s dagger that ended the Rangers’ seemingly storybook ride to what was supposed to be the Stanley Cup. And to add insult to injury, it was against the team they loathed the most.

1979 Stanley Cup Final

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    Associated Press

    The Rangers not only had the opportunity to break up the dynasty of the Islanders in the 1980s, but they also had the opportunity to prevent the Montreal Canadiens from winning four in a row in 1979.

    New York finished third in the Patrick Division that season, but after toppling the L.A. Kings and Philadelphia Flyers in the first two rounds, it booked its ticket to take on one of the greatest teams in the history of the NHL.

    Furthermore, it had been 39 years since the Rangers won the Cup, and the pressure was mounting.

    As intimidating as the Canadiens seemed, powered by the great Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson and Ken Dryden, the Rangers nabbed Game 1 4-1 at the Forum in Montreal. That feat, in itself, was astounding and had New York believing.

    Montreal would go on to take Games 2 and 3, but Game 4 went to overtime at the Garden. Unfortunately, the Rangers couldn’t muster up the win and surrendered less than 10 minutes into the extra frame.

    Montreal would go on to win Game 5 and their fourth straight championship. The Rangers would extend their Cup-less drought and not appear in the Final again until 1994.