NEW YORK -- Henrik Lundqvist's disappointment began before the final buzzer sounded on the New York Rangers' season in Boston.
An empty-net goal in the closing seconds, while Lundqvist watched from the bench, turned a one-goal deficit into a Game 5, season-ending loss in the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Bruins. Lundqvist slammed his stick on his way back to the net, knowing another chance at the Stanley Cup was gone.
He and the Rangers got one step further a year ago before they fell in the conference finals to New Jersey. Now with a summer full of questions ahead, there is no assurance New York will be even as good next season.
"Last year, a lot of things went our way, and we had a lot of confidence," the 31-year-old Lundqvist said. "This year, we had to work through a lot of things to get going, and it came down to the last few games. It was a different season, a different approach. It was just a different feeling the way that this season went.
"We had to work a little harder to get the results. I think it's really important that we have a pretty young team, and that we learn from this."
Lundqvist, last season's Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goalie, is again a finalist for the award. He was at the top of his game for much of the series with the Bruins and was the reason the Rangers were down by only one goal for much of the second half of their final loss.
"The hardest feeling is just realizing it's over," Lundqvist said. "The next couple of days you're going to analyze things and try to figure out what went wrong, and what you can do better, and try to learn from it."
New York got a bit of life with an overtime home win in Game 4, and played better in Game 5, but falling into a 3-0 series hole against the Bruins proved too much to overcome. The Rangers dug out of an 0-2 deficit in the first round against Washington and staved off elimination in Games 6 and 7 when Lundqvist posted back-to-back shutouts.
Yet, he could only do so much. His performance couldn't get the Rangers back to the third round after the lockout-shortened, 48-game regular season.
"I don't compare to last year," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "Everybody tries to, with the expectations, because you go to the conference finals, and then everybody thinks your next step is the Stanley Cup finals.
"You may not like it, you may think it's an excuse, but we're a different team. We still are one of the top eight teams playing at this time. We've gotten to play 30 playoff games in the past two years. Some teams would lick their chops to do that. I know you're always looking for the end goal, and getting to the finals, you get an opportunity. We didn't."
-- The Associated Press