It happened in a heartbeat, and before any of it could be fully comprehended, the Devils were piling on and the Rangers’ season had ended.
The game-winning goal in overtime last night of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final came off the stick of rookie Adam Henrique, and it gave the Devils a 3-2 win and a ticket to the Stanley Cup finals against the Kings.
“It was just a big scramble,” said Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. “I honestly don’t know what happened.”
Circling in the corner with the puck was Alexei Ponikarovsky, and coming near the right circle he turned a low wrister that was blocked in front by a sprawling Ryan McDonagh.
Eventually, it ended up at the far post on the stick of Ilya Kovalchuk, who tried to jam one in, but Lundqvist’s right pad was outstretched to stop it.
“[Ponikarovsky] just put it on net and I got a couple of good rebounds and it’s unfortunate that it didn’t go in,” Kovalchuk said. “But then we got it to our key guy.”
With McDonagh splayed out on his back, the puck came back to Ponikarovsky, who by then had come to just outside the melee and flung the puck back at the net, getting it between Lundqvist’s legs.
That’s where Henrique found it, and to the back of the net went the puck and to an unceremonious end went the Rangers’ season.
”The puck was laying right there, I got a couple shots on net and then I just poked it and Henrique got the final rebound,” Kovalchuk said. “We never gave up on that play and scored the goal.
“[Henrique] seems like he is always in the right position,” Kovalchuck said of the 22-year-old who has now scored two series-winning goals these playoffs. “He deserved that goal, and it was a big goal for us.”
By the time of the goal, Richards had come back, and as the puck was going in he was on his knees at the goal line.
The Devils all rushed to chase down Henrique, and Richards fired the puck out of the net and down to center ice, where it stayed until a Devil came by to pick it up sometime later.
“It’s not a good feeling when the guys are either on top of you or behind you,” Lundqvist said. “You just hope either you can find the puck or someone on your team can.”
Lundqvist then shrugged.
“It was just a big scramble,” he said quietly.
Henrik Lundqvist, Adam Henrique, Henrique, Brad Richards, Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Rangers, puck