The New York Rangers had their backs against the wall tonight. One loss, and they would be eliminated from playoff contention. One win in overtime, and it would make things interesting. One win in regulation, and they would tie the Flyers in the standings and make Sunday’s game a do-or-die for both teams. The Rangers forced the latter.
After a moving, and always inspiring pre-game ceremony featuring the paralyzed NYPD hero Steven McDonald, and the Rangers Extra Effort Award going to Ryan Callahan, the crowd was revved up and ready to go for the biggest game of the season.
It seemed early that the Flyers would put a damper on the festivities when Mike Richards scored just forty seconds into the game. But the Rangers would respond seven minutes later with a Chris Drury powerplay goal. The assists would go to Christensen and Girardi. They would then take the lead just three minutes later on a beautiful goal by Jody Shelley, his first as a Ranger, set up by none other than his bash brothers Anisimov and Shelley.
The Rangers would then extend the lead early in the second on Dubinsky’s twentieth of the season. Gaborik would continue to expand his career high with an assist, and Christensen would add his second of the game.
Then things would get rocky once again, as the Flyers would score two goals in six minutes to tie the game, but the resilient Rangers would answer back to that, with Gaborik’s forty-second of the season. The Rangers would not relinquish the lead, and would go on to win 4-3.
Henrik Lundqvist was spectacular, and the Shelley-Anisimov-Prust line would continue to be at their best, and got well deserved shifts late in the game.
Come Sunday, it will not matter whether the game ends in regulation or overtime. Whoever wins goes to the playoffs. What seed they will finish is yet to be known. The Rangers now have the momentum, but they cannot get ahead of themselves. They will be heading into a very hostile Wachovia Center for the three o’clock matinée.
This game, like tonight’s will essentially be a playoff game, and will probably stand as the most watched regular season game for the Rangers in recent history.
As a side note, did anyone catch ex-Flyers head coach John Stevens in the studio on VS after the completion in this game? He went completely out of his way to bash the Flyers, all while trying to hold back a large grin. Saying he looked happy would be an understatement. It looked like he wanted to run around the studio leaping and shouting out of sheer joy.