Considering that the Flyers boasted one of the season’s longest winning streaks, it’s hard to believe that Philadelphia will miss the playoffs.
Then again, that simple fact will cause enormous delight for the Rangers Faithful since there is no known Love The Flyers fan club within view of Seventh Avenue.
Still, with the Broad Street Bullies invading The Garden last night, there was — as always — the threat of mayhem in one form or the other.
Not that Rangers were looking for a fight — Tanner Glass was in uniform just in case — they just wanted a win at home. The Flyers simply were hoping to keep their gossamer-string-thin playoff hopes alive.
When the curtain descended on the Blueshirts next-to-last regular season home game, it was sayonara to the visitors and a delightful — though awfully, nerve-wrackingly close — 4-3 victory for Alain Vigneault‘s skaters.
With a trip to Washington on tap for Wednesday followed by a flight on to Ottawa next Saturday, the Rangers close their pre-playoff campaign next Sunday at The Garden against the defending champion Penguins.
OVERVIEW: Aiming to close the schedule’s final week on a high note, the Rangers were refreshed by a home win. The club thereby ended their eight-game home skid while earning their 100th point in the standings. Granted, it wasn’t pretty at the end with Philly narrowing a 4-1 deficit with a pair of goals in less than a minute. But the “Dreaded Three-Goal Lead” provided enough of a cushion for a W and that’s all that really counted.
WHAT WENT RIGHT:
1. AT LAST, A HOME ICE ADVANTAGE: They won at The Garden. ‘Nuff said!
2. GOOD GRIT: The Rangers dominated play along the boards and down low from the opening face-off. This lasted for approximately 58 out of the 60 minutes.
3. JUST IN TIME: Granted, the desperate, playoff-seeking Flyers mounted a two-goal offensive at the end, but the Broad Streeters needed three. Even shorthanded near the end, New York’s defenders held fast, finding a way to maintain their lead, just in the nick of time.
4. ZIP-ZIP-ZIP ZUC: Flitting around the ice as only Mats Zuccarello can, The Mighty Mite recorded assists (42, 43, 44) on three Rangers goals. He not only is building on his career-high, but is just a point away from his second consecutive 60-point campaign. P.S. The Little Guy remains the engine that drives his team.
TURNING POINT: Trailing 1-0 on an early second period Flyers goal, the Rangers soon went on the power play. Not long after, Mika Zibanejad scored to tie the count at one and set the stage for his club to soar into the lead, which they never relinquished.
BEST GOAL: Trade deadline acquisition Brendan Smith put the Rangers ahead in style with a brilliant move to the backhand followed by a nifty roofer to give New York a 2-1 lead.
BEST SAVE: With the Flyers on a power play and less than 15 seconds remaining in the third period, Flyers captain Claude Giroux lined up a one-timer. While many thought it was labeled “goal,” Henrik Lundqvist nabbed it in time to cement the win.
WHAT THEY SAID:
1. ALAIN VIGNEAULT: “For 58 minutes, we played a pretty good game. We got a little unfortunate at the end, but at the end of the day, it’s about winning games and that’s what we did.”
2. HENRIK LUNDQVIST: “We played really good; one of our better efforts defensively. But in the last two minutes, we made a couple of decisions with the puck that we need to do a little bit better.”
3. DEREK STEPAN: “Our group understood that it was important to win at home. Nevertheless, three or four of our last games at home were real strong. We just came out on the wrong side of them. We got a win and have one more game at home to clean it up.”
4. BRENDAN SMITH: “On my goal, the forwards made some good plays at our blue line and I was able to beat my man up the ice. Zuccy (Zuccarello) made a really nice pass to me and (jokingly) then I blacked out so I’m not really sure what happened after that.”
5. DAN GIRARDI: “We can’t just coast in our last three games of the season and expect to be ready for Game 1 (of the playoffs) on the road. Our main goal is to really feel good about our game going into the Second Season.”
6. MAVEN’S REPORTER SAM STERN: “The Rangers seemed to run out of gas with two minutes left, but Lundqvist made the biggest save when it counted most and New York got the win.”
COMING ATTRACTIONS: A trip to Washington on Wednesday is next on tap.
GAME TIME: 8 p.m. TV: Postgame coverage on MSG Network.
BOTTOM LINE: A homestretch shaping-up is taking place. Most impressive is the Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello line which registered six points against the Flyers.