Saturday, April 10, 2010

Rangers earn key victory, set up crucial Sunday

Rangers put Philadelphia's playoff hopes in jeopardy
Sometimes all a team can ask for is to control its fate in the final days of the regular season when pushing for the playoffs. The Rangers are in that situation and they've set up a do-or-die finale.

Marian Gaborik broke a 3-3 tie late in the second period and New York held on to knock off Philadelphia, 4-3. The teams are tied in the standings with 86 points in the eight and nine positions, both one point behind Montreal and Boston. They meet again Sunday at 3 p.m. The winner will qualify for the postseason. Maybe the loser too depending what the Canadiens and Bruins do this weekend.

Gaborik's goal came when Chris Pronger failed to control a bouncing puck at center ice, allowing Gaborik a chance on Henrik Lundqvist. Gaborik's shot might have hit a piece of defenseman Matt Carle's stick and went to the far top corner past Brian Boucher, who overplayed the shot. It was Gaborik's 42nd goal, tying a career-high.

Just 2:13 earlier, Pronger made a nice play to steal the puck in the defensive zone and head-man a pass to Mike Richards for a breakaway. Richards had his stick lifted but nudged it forward a bit with a second effort, then Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival inadvertently pushed the puck into the net with his skate to make the score 3-3. It was the second goal of the game for Richards, who made a great play to steal a Marc Staal pass and beat Henrik Lundqvist just 40 seconds into the game.

After getting that early 1-0 lead, however, Philadelphia went over 17 minutes without registering a shot on goal. In the meantime, Chris Drury and Jody Shelley scored to give New York the lead. Shelley's marker broke a 62-game streak without a goal.

When Brandon Dubinsky scored for a 3-1 New York lead, Madison Square Garden was jumping. Daniel Briere silenced the crowd with a quick response goal just 88 seconds later.

Lundqvist finished with 24 saves for New York, which is 7-2-1 in its last 10 and 5-1-0 in the last six.

Stars of the night
--Alex Ovechkin scored goals 49 and 50 and added an assist to take the scoring lead by one point over Henrik Sedin in Washington's 5-2 rout of Atlanta.
--Steve Mason made 45 saves but lost a 1-0 shootout decision to Detroit, which got 22 saves from Jimmy Howard.
--Keith Tkachuk had two third-period assists when St. Louis was trailing 3-2 in his final home game as a Blue, and St. Louis scored four times in the third period to defeat Anaheim, 6-3.
--Colin Fraser scored twice and Chicago earned a 5-2 victory over Colorado in a potential first-round matchup. The Blackhawks moved into a tie with San Jose for first place and the loss locked the Avalanche into the eighth seed.

Marquee matchups
Saturday, April 10 (11 games)
The penultimate day of the regular season sees two teams looking to lock up a playoff spot.

-Carolina (35-36-10) at Boston (37-30-13), 1 p.m. ET. One point does the Bruins little good. Unless they also get one Sunday against Washington (good luck with that.)

-Toronto (29-38-14) at Montreal (39-33-9), 7 p.m. The Canadiens, however, need just one point to clinch a playoff spot. It is Montreal's last game of the season.

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