Time was running out on a season of unexpected success for the Rangers. They were losing by a goal and the anxiety was rising at Madison Square Garden. To most people outside the Ranger universe, it would have seemed as if their terrific run was over.
But all season, including in the previous two games of their first-round playoff series, the Rangers had found a way to claw back and win, putting a stamp of authenticity on the team’s marketing slogan: “No quit in New York.”
There they were, trailing by a goal again, this time with less than six minutes to play in regulation in a deciding Game 7, when Mika Zibanejad rifled a wrist shot to tie the score. Then 4 minutes and 46 seconds into overtime, Artemi Panarin punctuated another comeback win, rifling home a wrist shot on the power play to clinch a 4-3 win and send more than 18,000 fans at the Garden into a deafening delirium. “It’s crazy,” Zibanejad said. “I don’t think I’ve heard this building louder than on Artie’s OT goal. I could not hear what I was thinking. People have been talking about Games 7s here and the crowd. It was unrealistic.”
That surreal moment would have seemed almost implausible at the start of the campaign, but in a season in which the Rangers exceeded expectations and tantalized fans with their potential, they have made the unrealistic real.