PHILADELPHIA – A late-season shootout between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers with major post-season implications.
Seems like 2010 all over again.
Nearly one year after a shootout loss in Philadelphia knocked the Rangers out of the playoff race, New York got a measure of revenge Sunday with a 3-2 victory over the Flyers.
Philadelphia is solidly in the playoffs this time around and is trying to finish first in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers are squarely on the post-season bubble, but they helped their chances greatly with just their second win over the Flyers in six meetings this season.
Last April 11, the Flyers won the shootout on the last day of the season to secure a playoff spot and keep the Rangers out. Philadelphia got hot and reached Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals before losing to Chicago.
This time, Erik Christensen and Wojtek Wolski scored in the tiebreaker, and Henrik Lundqvist turned aside Nikolay Zherdev and Claude Giroux to give the Rangers a much-needed win that snapped a two-game skid.
“A small flashback,” said Lundqvist, who faced 32 shots during regulation and two more in overtime. “I really learned from last year to stay in the moment, not think about the consequences. Last year, I thought if I didn’t make the save, we were out. Now, it’s just make the save and deal with the consequences later.”
The Rangers stayed in eighth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race when the Buffalo Sabres beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 in overtime later Sunday. New York is two points ahead of ninth-place Carolina and one point behind seventh-place Buffalo. All three teams have three games left.
“We didn’t worry too much on what could happen,” said Wolski, who has recently been in and out of the Rangers lineup. “Our main focus is to get as many points as possible, play well late, and focus on playing our game.”
Bryan McCabe and Ruslan Fedotenko scored for the Rangers (42-32-5) in regulation and James Van Riemsdyk and Zherdev had the Flyers’ (46-22-11) goals.
Wolski’s deciding shot trickled past Sergei Bobrovski before hitting the inside of the right post and bouncing out. The play was briefly reviewed by video officials before being declared a goal.
“I saw it cross the line, then pop out,” Wolski said. “I was relieved when it went in. The official had a good angle on it. There was no doubt in my mind.”
The Atlantic Division-leading Flyers pulled even with the Washington Capitals atop the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia currently holds the tiebreaker because it has one more regulation win than the Capitals. Both teams have three games remaining.
On Saturday, the Flyers fell out of first in the East for the first time since Jan. 8.
“Winning the division would be nice, but we’re more concerned with playing the kind of hockey that we want to play,” Flyers defenceman Sean O’Donnell said. “We still have the tiebreaker on Washington, so if we play the way we can these three games, we’re not really concerned about what Washington does.”
The Rangers, who won for the eighth time in 12 games, rallied from an early deficit and then pulled out the win after giving up a 2-1 lead in the third period.
New York, 28-0 this season when leading after two periods, will play Boston, Atlanta and New Jersey at Madison Square Garden to close out the season.
“We win, we’re in,” centre Brian Boyle said. “We needed the win. We came out and answered really well.”
The Rangers improved to 9-3 in shootouts this season, largely due to the fine play of Lundqvist.
“I think we have the best in the business,” New York coach John Tortorella said.
After the Flyers took a 1-0 lead on a goal by James Van Riemsdyk, the Rangers tied it on defenceman McCabe’s goal during a 5-on-3 power play with under one second remaining in the first period.
The Rangers went ahead 2-1 when Fedotenko scored with 6:30 left in the second period, but the Flyers got even on Zherdev’s goal 4:32 into the third.
The Flyers went 0 for 4 onthe power play and are 2 for 29 in their last 11 games with an extra attacker. Their struggles with the man advantage have coincided with defenceman Chris Pronger’s hand injury that required surgery.
Philadelphia is 1-4-4 in its last nine home games.
“We need to go harder and play with a lot higher energy and emotion,” Flyers forward Daniel Carcillo said. “When we do that, we play our best. Right now, it’s not happening.”
Notes: The goal by Zherdev, a former Rangers forward, was his first since Jan. 23, though he didn’t play in 19 games during that stretch. … The Flyers were without C Danny Briere, who missed the game because of an undisclosed lower body injury. … Philadelphia C Blair Betts sustained a lower body injury during the game and didn’t return. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said neither injury is serious. The Rangers improved to 9-3 in shootouts this season, while the Flyers fell to 3-7. Philadelphia is 1-4 in shootouts since March 17.