NEW YORK – Now this is the playoffs.
The Rangers did what they had to do, winning 4-3 over the Flyers to take the first end of their all important home-and-home with Philly for a spot in the finals.
Or as Brandon Dubinsky said, “It’s like the NCAA tournament where the 64th and 65th seeds play-in for that one spot.”
Now the Rangers are in complete control of their destiny. By winning in regulation, the Blueshirts only need any type of win on Sunday to make the playoffs or is Boston or Montreal lose their final games, the team can lose in overtime or a shootout to make it.
Needless to say they are sitting pretty right now.
“After the Boston game we talked about never giving up,” said the Rangers never give up goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “We showed it in a lot of games: stay in our bubble, and whatever happens keep working and good things happen. A lot of games in the year we had a tough time finding that but it’s good down the stretch here. We really stepped it up.”
And of course, they stayed focused, even after a bad giveaway by Marc Staal to Mike Richards that resulted in a 1-0 Flyers lead just 40 seconds in and 19 seconds later Aaron Voros went to the box on high sticking call, the Rangers continued their stand.
“I mean it’s like 40 seconds into the game,” said Rangers Good Guy Eric Christensen. “You can’t let yourself be too worked up over that since you have almost the whole rest of the game.”
They didn’t and took the lead back after Chris Drury tied it. Jody Shelly picked a good time to score his first goal of the season at 10:13 to let the Rangers go into the dressing room 2-1 after one.
“Their first period was better than ours,” said Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. “I don’t know if it’s confidence or we came out a little but deer in the headlights waiting to see what was going to happen.”
The Flyers were able to come back after Brandon Dubinsky made it 3-1 about seven minutes into the second. About a minute and a half later Daniel Briere made it a one goal game and then Richards was able to tie it at 14:41.
Yet, the Rangers leading scorer Marion Gaborik retook the lead for good on a beautiful individual effort being defended by two Flyers at 16:54.
“The puck was bouncing,” Gaborik said. “It bounced over [Chris] Pronger’s stick, I got it and I tried to skate while it was still bouncing. I tried to shoot it and I got a lucky bounce off Brian Boucher’s gloves.”
Boucher saved 21 for the Flyers on the night, while Lundqvist had 24 stops on the night, with many of the key saves coming late in the third as the Rangers netminder was forced to stifle a desperate Flyers team looking to earn their spot in the playoffs.
“I think the pressure is on them,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella. “We are just trying to find our way and we are very comfortable on the road. There’s a nice confidence about our team and not being too uptight, even after the first goal.”
The Flyers still may close out the Blueshirts on Sunday, but as of right now, the Rangers are alive and well and on the doorstep to the playoffs.