NEW YORK – Most times, words simply can’t express the emotions players and teams go through after a Game 7 loss.
It’s more gut-wrenching to lose a Game 7 than to get swept in four straight.
Trying to find an answer as to why the Flyers bowed out of the playoffs Wednesday night with a stunning 2-1 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden (see Instant Replay) isn’t easy because there is no simple answer.
Or maybe there is, Flyers coach Craig Berube offered.
“The first few games we didn’t initiate enough or play with enough aggressiveness as a team,” he said. “We would have had another win there, maybe. Our game, overall, we didn’t play our best hockey in the series.”
And yet, Flyers goaltender Steve Mason was superb. He could not be faulted after turning aside 31 of the 33 shots he faced. The Rangers should have had four or five goals in the second period when he faced 18 shots.
“He was great -- our goalies did a great job for us and kept us in all the games,” Berube said. “We let them win the second period.”
Mason, incidentally, divulged he had been suffering from a concussion when he missed the first three games of the series.
By all rights, the Flyers, who had such a strong second period in Game 6 -- three goals -- were an utter mess on both sides of the puck in the middle frame. Both of the Rangers' goals came that period. Even worse, they were scored after two horrible Flyers power plays that acted as momentum shifts for New York.
If there are two stats that will haunt the Flyers they are as follows: In the four games the Flyers lost in the series, their power play was 1 for 13. In the three games they won, it was 5 for 8.
The other side of it was the Flyers killed off 21 consecutive Rangers power plays and New York still won the series. Go figure.
“Sometimes it’s clicking and sometimes it doesn’t,” Jakub Voracek said. “It’s too bad. We got two opportunities today and if we scored a goal on it, it would be different. But it’s too early to get on it and think about it that way.”
As good as the Flyers' power play was overall in the series -- 6 for 21 -- the two botched ones that period were crucial in defeat.
“Special teams are obviously very important,” Vinny Lecavalier said. “They are very aggressive and they played well on the PK tonight.”
The Rangers had two shorthanded chances on those two Flyers power plays, better than the two shots the Flyers mustered with the man advantage.
Dan Carcillo, serving a penalty for too many men on the ice, got the first goal at 3:06, well after a Flyers power play ended. But he was still on the ice coming out of the box. Braydon Coburn -- minus-6 in the series -- left Carcillo alone.
The second failed power play saw some tic-tac-toe passing by the Rangers after it expired with Benoit Pouliot, who was in the box for goalie interference, getting the eventual game-winner.
Four Rangers scored goals in the series on the same shift leaving the penalty box.
“We moved the puck well, had a couple chances,” Claude Giroux said. “We have to make sure it goes in the net. It’s Game 7. You lose 2-1.
“It doesn’t get closer than that. I think we did a good job staying in the battle. We have a lot of character in this room. For a young team, I think it’s great. This is only going to make it stronger.”
As bad as the second period was, the Flyers got back in the game when rookie Jason Akeson scored off his own blocked shot early in the third on Henrik Lundqvist to make it a nail-biter.
That goal gave the Flyers a shot of adrenalin. The Flyers began a push but the Rangers answered with stronger defense around Lundqvist.
“It was all positive [on the bench],” Akeson said. “Everyone was giving it their all. It’s a tough way to go out, that’s for sure, when you’re expecting to win.”
That was the mindset because the Flyers had come back so many times before -- 11 comeback wins in the third period during the regular season. Not this time.
The game ended on a series of Rangers icings, one debatable with less than three ticks left on the clock that saw a faceoff at center ice instead of in the Rangers' zone.
That didn’t lose the game or the series for the Flyers.
“Everyone feels lousy,” Berube said. “But I’m proud of my players. They went through a lot this year. We were stuck in a hole for a while and they battled out of it.
“Stuck together and went to a Game 7. I’m proud of them. They’re a great bunch of guys and there’s a lot of character in our locker room.”
Indeed, they did, climbing out of a 1-7 grave in October to resurrect their season and playoff chances by the end.
“It’s the worst feeling ever,” Voracek said. “You come so close, do or die and lose that critical Game 7. That’s hockey. We got to make sure and learn from it and use it in the future.”