They sure made it interesting at the start, but the Rangers' postseason hopes still have a pulse. Here's how it all went down in Game 82 at the Garden.
What It Means
The Rangers' playoff hopes are still alive after downing the Devils on Saturday afternoon. Now they'll need some help from a Tampa Bay Lightning squad that's already locked in to its playoff spot and will likely just be happy to escape the game without injury. If the Bolts beat the Carolina Hurricanes tonight, the Rangers will be in the playoffs.
An Ominous Opening
It didn’t take long for the Devils to apply some serious pressure on the Rangers when Nick Palmieri got a piece of an Ilya Kovalchuk shot to stake the Devils to a 1-0 lead two minutes into the game. The early marker prompted some grumbling from the Garden crowd, but the Rangers righted the ship pretty quickly. Thanks to a surprising source.
A Hero’s Welcome
On the first shift of his first game back since injuring his knee Feb. 3, Chris Drury provided an instant impact, netting a badly needed tying goal just a minute after the Devils took the lead. The goal made John Tortorella look like a prophet, saying before the game that Drury's "been known to make big plays." Um, yep. The goal keyed a 16-minute stretch in which the Rangers were electric, throwing huge hits and nearly taking the lead when Ruslan Fedotenko was stymied by Martin Brodeur at point-blank range. It was the final minute of the period, however, that proved to be a problem.
After a period of high-energy, hard-hitting hockey, the Rangers had one bad shift and they paid the price. The Devils kept the puck pinned in the Rangers zone for what seemed like an eternity and a broken stick by Derek Stepan wasn’t helping matters. Had he had his twig, maybe Stepan could have fired the puck out of the zone. Instead Kovalchuk collected the biscuit and shot a missile over Lundqvist's blocker with 41.8 seconds left in the period. The Rangers were back against the wall.
Ryan McDonagh picked a heckuva time to score his first NHL goal. After Wojtek Wolski started the second period scoring spree, McDonagh put the Rangers up 3-2 with a wrist shot off a behind-the-net feed from Vinny Prospal. Wolski's goal got the Rangers rolling 1:52 into the second period when he streaked down the left wing on a 2-on-1 and beating Brodeur to the short side. Brandon Prust added to the lead when he pushed home a shot flipped onto goal by Brandon Dubinsky. Not Brodeur's finest moment, but the Rangers weren't complaining. After the Prospal scored on a feed from Artem Anisimov in the third period, 14 different Rangers had recorded a point. Everyone was contributing Saturday.
Get your popcorn and Pepto ready for tonight’s Carolina-Tampa Bay game, which will decide the Rangers’ fate. A win by Carolina and the Rangers’ season will be over. Anything less and the Blueshirts will battle the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs.