I’m sorry, Caniacs. I (kind of) hate it had to end this way.

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Well, that didn’t quite pan out like I assumed it would.

I guess what they say is true — trends and streaks really are meant to be bucked, snapped and broken.

I was fully prepared to come in here this week with my head held high and accept defeat, using clichés like “We’ll get y’all next time” and “Maybe it just wasn’t our year” to hide my frustration with the fact that the Carolina Hurricanes eliminated my New York Rangers for the second time in three seasons.

And by all accounts, that’s what was supposed to happen.

That’s what the scriptwriters had in mind.

The Rangers were down 2-0 in the series with things flipping back to New York for Game 3 on May 22. They’d scored just a single goal in seven periods (counting overtime) of playoff hockey, an abysmal offensive performance that left them in a hole against the East’s No. 2 seed.

I knew, however, that the Rangers had a great shot at evening the series. In fact, I was certain of it.

If this postseason taught us anything, it’s that the Hurricanes were ferocious on their home ice in Raleigh, but middling on the road.

Prior to Monday’s Game 7 of this series, the Canes were 7-0 at home and 0-6 on the road, marking the first time in NHL history that a team’s first 13 playoff games were all won by the home team.

But as I mentioned, all streaks are made to be broken.

The Rangers tied up the series, 2-2, after two dominant wins at Madison Square Garden, 3-1 on May 22 and 4-1 on May 24.

So the trend continued.

Carolina, naturally, mopped up New York with a 3-1 win last Thursday in its return to PNC Arena, then immediately suffered a 5-2 thumping at the hands of Filip Chytil and the Rangers in Game 6 last Saturday to force the all-important clinching Game 7.

Both teams played a seven-game series in the opening round, meaning they were familiar with the territory. And with the Rangers needing to hand the Hurricanes their first home loss since April 14 to advance, I’d be lying if I said I was confident.

I was petrified.

That is, until 3 minutes, 40 seconds into the game, when defenseman Adam Fox banged in an early power-play goal to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead with ease.

Then, my nervousness morphed into coolheadedness a little over four minutes later when fan-favorite winger Chris Kreider — who had just one goal in the first six games of the series — scored from point-blank range to not only give New York a 2-0 lead, but give him his 15th-career goal in an elimination game, putting him one shy of the all-time record.

From there, the Rangers were on cruise control as they scored four more goals, allowing just two late in the third period to secure the 6-2 win and succeed in the impossible by knocking off the Canes at home.

It was a game undoubtedly impacted by the losses of Canes forward Seth Jarvis and goalie Antti Raanta in the first and second periods, respectfully, but one in which New York controlled the whole way.

For the second straight series, the Rangers had come back from a massive series deficit — including a 3-1 disadvantage against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round — to win in a Game 7. And I need them to stop playing with my heart like that.

For all of the Caniacs out there, I don’t mean to brag or rub the loss in your faces, especially because y’all have been nothing short of awesome. There’s a reason why PNC Arena is so tough for opponents to play in, and a lot of it has to do with the fans.

I know this loss also presents a major challenge for Carolina, which has plenty of expiring contracts and could be witnessing its Stanley Cup window coming to a close soon.

So it’s safe to say that all of Raleigh is pretty down in the dumps right now.

But even though I’m by no means a die-hard hockey fan, I can’t help but smile in thinking that this really may be the Rangers’ year. It’s been a long time since 1994.

There’s a good chance the Rangers get trounced by the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final starting this week, but who cares? I’m just happy they’re living to see another day.

And if they somehow find a way to squeak it out, then we’ll realize what we’ve known all along: there’s simply no quit in New York.

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at vhensley@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.


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