Rangers Clinch Playoff Spot
It took 81 games, a new coach, several trades and one of the worst slumps in team history, but after Thursday night's game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Madison Square Garden, the New York Rangers finally clinched up a playoff bid.
Not that it was easy either. The Flyers played a physically strong and aggressive game and dominated long stretches of the action. They out-tallied the Rangers 38-31 in shots, one of which resulted in perhaps the save of the season by Henrik Lundqvist.
Five minutes into the third period, with the score 2-1 in favor of the Rangers, Daniel Carcillo of the Flyers received a pass that left him just feet from the net with a wide open net. Showing amazing reflexes Lundqvist lunged to his left, extended himself nearly instantaneously and snagged the puck from midair, saving what appeared to be a guaranteed goal. The score stayed at 2-1, and it would be the final score of the game.
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Later in the period another seemingly foregone goal was prevented by the Rangers. With seemingly every person on the ice directly in front of the Rangers goal, Lundqvist found himself helplessly sprawled on the ice as the puck was centered in front of him. Miraculously, defensemen Marc Staal deflected the puck in mid air with his arm to prevent the goal.
Combined with the Lundqvist save and several deafening pings from Flyers shots hitting the crossbar and posts, the Rangers were able to keep the Flyers to just one goal. That one goal came on the power play in the middle of the second period. Daniel Briere got an open luck on a quick pass and scored his 10 th of the season.
The Rangers got on the board less than a minute into the game as Markus Naslund poked and poked at a loose puck under Martin Biron, finally stuffing both the puck and Biron into the net for a 1-0 lead and his 24 th goal of the season. Roughly ten minutes later Ryan Callahan, who assisted on Naslund's goal, redirected a booming Derek Morris slap shot for his 22 nd of the season. Chris Drury tallied an assist on both goals.
With the season ending game against the Flyers remaining on Sunday, the Rangers have a chance to secure the 7 th seed, as they are tied in points with the Montreal Canadiens at 93 a piece. It's not an enviable position however, as either the Boston Bruins or the Washington Capitals await in the first round of the postseason.
After a season that started at a blazing pace with Stanley Cup aspirations being tossed around, and then a tumultuous middle of the year that almost saw the team fall completely out of playoff contention, surely anything can happen in a seven game playoff series.
By: Jake Emen
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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