The fate of the New York Rangers’ season is now in the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. With their backs to the wall, the Rangers needed to win this afternoon over the New Jersey Devils, or their season was over. They would accomplish that, with a 5-2 victory, but unfortunately, whether or not they make the playoffs rests with the Stamkos-led Lightning, when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes tonight in Raleigh. The Rangers did all they could do today, which was win, and will now sit and watch the scoreboard to see whether or not they will make it to the postseason.
- First period: The Rangers got off on the wrong foot when they allowed an early goal, originally credited to Ilya Kovalchuk, before it was changed to Nick Palmieri. The Blueshirts could have folded right there, but instead, they got a much-needed goal from an unlikely source, Chris Drury (1), who returned to score his first goal of the season and first in 25 games, dating back to a year ago today. The Rangers continued to play well, before being deflated by a late goal by Kovalchuk, to trail 2-1.
- Second period: It was in the middle frame that it seemed the Rangers decided that they were not going to take a loss for an answer this afternoon. Wojtek Wolski (12) scored less than two minutes in on assists from Fedotenko and Sauer to tie the game. Ten minutes later, Ryan McDonagh (1) would score his first career goal, in this, his 40th game of the season. He would cap off a fantastic rookie campaign, that will also see him finish with a +16 rating. With Prospal waiting behind the net, Gaborik fed him the pass and he was able to find the open rookie inside the circle, who shot it over the shoulder of Martin Brodeur. In scoring that goal, McDonagh now becomes part of a trio of Rangers’ defenseman, including Matt Gilroy and Marc Staal, who scored their first NHL goal against Brodeur. Four minutes later, the Rangers would jump ahead by two, when Brandon Prust (13) knocked home a loose puck after it was shot to the net by Brandon Dubinsky. The Rangers headed into the third with a 4-2 lead.
- Third period: The Rangers were 28-0-0 on the season when taking a lead into the last period, and thanks to some good offensive pressure and a defense that kept the Devils to only seven shots, the Rangers could tack on one more win to that stat. It was a relatively calm period, and the Rangers were in charge the whole time, and when Vinny Prospal (9) scored on a 2-on-1 with Artem Anisimov midway through, that sealed the deal.
Feelings are still bittersweet at the moment, because as happy as us fans want to feel about a great win over the Devils on the final day of the season, it might all be for naught if the surging Hurricanes keep on flying tonight. The Rangers, who never seem to play well in day games, played an excellent and intense one today, and did everything they needed to do to at least have a chance tonight.
With the exception of the Devils’ second goal, Lundqvist was solid, and stopped what he needed to in order to give his team a chance to win in what became his 26th consecutive start. Chris Drury also came through in the clutch today, scoring in his first game back from yet another injury stint. It truly is amazing how injuries work, and how Drury happened to be ready just as Callahan broke his ankle. It really makes one wonder if Drury wasn’t ready for longer than what was let on, and just kept on the back-burner because he was not needed. I don’t want to yell conspiracy here, but it’s just very odd.
We will now all hold our breath to later tonight, where we will find out if the Rangers will be advancing. I will not say “Goodbye” just yet, to all my Rangers readers, because I will be putting up something tonight once we learn of the outcome. Until then, just try to relax and have some fun during crunch time. I know it will be stressful, but it is out of our hands. All we can do is wait.