Since the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the national media and fans have been expecting the New York Rangers to impose their will on a series, just as they did throughout the regular season.
With two games left to go in the Eastern Conference Final, we're still waiting after the Rangers' Game 5 comeback stalled out.
Falling 5-3 to the Devils thanks to Ryan Carter's bang-bang scoring play late in the third period and a coffin nail into the empty net courtesy of Zach Parise, the loss is doubly frustrating because it appeared the Rangers had finally stepped up on a night where both Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur could not be difference-makers for their teams.
The Rangers responded from their early 3-0 deficit, and their strong play to battle back in the second period seemed on the edge of finally establishing control of this series. That perception was reinforced after Marian Gaborik's early third period goal to tie the game, but New York could not close the final distance.
The Rangers have gotten used to relying on the All-Star-caliber play of Lundqvist to bail them out, even on nights where the rest of the team fails to show up for the first 20-30 minutes of a game. When you have a 1-0 or 2-1 series lead, it's not a great attitude, but it isn't necessarily fatal.
Now that they sit in a 3-2 series deficit, perhaps it's time for Ryan Callahan to summon up a bit of 1994 inside the locker room, though he may not be the type for a public guarantee. The Rangers offense must find the ability to put the skate down, goaltending or no goaltending. Players like Brad Richards, Artem Anisimov and even Brian Boyle, who was so instrumental against the Ottawa Senators, must be drivers, not passengers on Friday night in Newark if they have any hope to return to MSG on Sunday. Players like Mike Rupp and Ruslan Fedotenko, who know what it means to battle back and play in a Stanley Cup Final, need to reinforce those lessons to their teammates.
Above all, head coach John Tortorella must engage his team to get the lead and build from it, not simply play catch up and expect to find a lucky bounce in the later third period or OT.
New York's lack of killer instinct is a big reason why the club found itself in seven-game series against the Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals, and it could very well be the reason the Rangers find themselves going home if they cannot bring it back to the fore.
Stick with our StoryStream for full coverage of Devils vs. Rangers Game 5. For more on the Devils, check in with In Lou We Trust, and for more on the Rangers, check in with Blueshirt Banter. For complete coverage of the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, stay tuned to SB Nation's dedicated NHL hub.