NEW YORK (AP) -- The Eastern Conference playoff race is not for
the faint of heart. In the course of a night, a period, a shift,
postseason hopes can go from likely to lousy.
The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens went head to head
Tuesday night, and the fortunes of both changed in a heartbeat.
Chris Drury scored a pair of goals and the Rangers took
advantage of the Canadiens' careless defense and suspect
goaltending for a 3-1 victory on Tuesday night.
If New York wins either of its two remaining games against the
Philadelphia Flyers -- starting at home Thursday night -- the
Rangers will be in the playoffs for a fourth straight year.
"We're probably not going to focus on clinching. We're just
going to focus on playing a really good game and win," Henrik
Lundqvist said after a 24-save effort.
The Rangers' playoff chances didn't look nearly as good just
hours earlier when they limped home on a 1-3-1 skid and found
themselves tied in points with the Florida Panthers at the
postseason cutoff. New York had a slight edge because of one
By beating the Canadiens and getting help from the Flyers, who
beat Florida 2-1, the Rangers can think about catching Montreal
for seventh place instead of worrying about the ninth-place
Drury gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead in the first period and
stretched their advantage to 3-1 in the second with his 22nd
goal. Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek coughed up the puck
each time before the New York captain scored.
The Rangers (41-30-9) can even earn a playoff spot if the
Panthers lose once in regulation time.
"It was a big night for us," Lundqvist said. "Going into this
game we knew we had to win.
"We are going to go for it Thursday. It is a big game again. We
have a great opportunity to play great now and go into the
playoffs feeling really good."
Nik Antropov shook off a knee injury to get into the lineup and
scored with a dive against goalie Carey Price, who played for
the first time in four games following a bout with the flu and
made 41 saves.
Canadiens defenseman Mathieu Dandenault scored for the second
straight night in a losing cause.
New York rebounded from a 1-0 loss at Boston on Saturday and won
at home for the seventh time in eight games. The Rangers did it
with a dominant second period.
Montreal (41-29-10), playing without injured top defensemen
Andrei Markov and Mathieu Schneider, lost for the second time in
two nights and had its sizzling top line of Alex Kovalev, Saku
Koivu and Alex Tanguay blanked.
The Canadiens gave up two goals to Ottawa's Dany Heatley 38
seconds apart late in the third period Monday to turn a lead
into a 3-2 loss. Montreal could have earned a playoff spot with
a win at New York.
"We can't get upset and pack it in now," Price said. "It's too
important. The good news is, we get another chance to clinch.
It's too bad it didn't work out tonight."
Price played a dump-in at the right post, and under pressure
from charging forward Sean Avery, bounced a pass off the skate
of defenseman Josh Gorges. The puck caromed back through the
vacated crease and sat there long enough for Antropov to make a
headlong dive and poke it in like a cue shot 2:37 into the
"It's too bad it had to cost us the game," Price said. "I just
misplayed it. I played it right off my defenseman. It's just a
tough bounce. I should have just tried to play it safe and maybe
shoot it off the wall."
The Rangers owned an 11-1 shots advantage less than midway
through the frame and built a two-goal lead on Drury's second.
Ryan Callahan, honored before the game with the team's extra
effort award, showed why when he fought off Komisarek along the
boards and nudged the puck ahead despite not having a stick.
Markus Naslund skated the puck into the Montreal end and zipped
a shot that was deflected in by Drury.
"It seems like I am getting points on the board," said Callahan,
who had two assists. "When you have guys like Dru and Nazzy with
you, they bury it pretty good when you give them chances."
New York outshot Montreal 15-4 in the second period and 44-25
"For a road game, we got into the game well, but in the second
period, the Rangers took control of the play," Canadiens coach
Bob Gainey said.
Price, the starting All-Star goalie for the Eastern Conference
this season, had his head on a swivel for most of the night. He
glanced back at the left post several times after Drury beat him
in the first period. Komisarek's clearing attempt hit Callahan,
and the puck bounced free to Drury, who found a sliver of space
between Price and the post to make it 1-0.
Dandenault lifted Montreal into a 1-1 tie with 3:04 left in the