Eighty-One Down, One to Go


Rare is the evening when the Penguins invade The Garden for a game that does not affect the standings.

But that is the case tonight as both Pittsburgh and New York skate on the ice in Game 82 before preparing for the serious season — the playoffs for The Stanley Cup.

Having been defeated, 3-1, yesterday by the Senators in Ottawa, the Blueshirts can take solace in the fact that they lost absolutely nothing in the standings and jetted home unscathed without any meaningful injury.

And, really, under the circumstances, what else could matter after an inconsequential Game 81 on the North side of the 49th Parallel?

OVERVIEW: With 81 games down and only one to go, it’s almost impossible not to look past the Penguins and focus on the upcoming Original Six Canadiens-Rangers series. But that would not be fair to the Visitors who could play a part in sharpening Alain Vigneault‘s sextet for the postseason ahead. 


1. NEED MORE GOALS: Except for a late immaterial score, the Rangers’ guns were muzzled, leaving Henrik Lundqvist with a minimum of both offensive and defensive help.

2. NOTHING TO GAIN: With their position locked in, the Blueshirts’ prime motivation was to maintain a healthy roster for the postseason. Hence, no urgency.


1. TANNER TO THE RESCUE: Inserted into the Rangers’ lineup, Tanner Glass once again demonstrated that he’ll be the Blueshirts’ ice cop to maintain decorum.

This was evident by his first period bit of fisticuffs. Tanner is ready.

2. A CLOSE CALL, BUT NO INJURIES: In the first period, Pavel Buchnevich went down with a knee-on-knee collision but emerged apparently unscathed.

3. A WORKOUT WORTHY OF THE KING: Lundqvist’s return to top form continued against the Senators. He was sharp, rejecting tough Ottawa chances in bunches. All signs indicate that The King will be fully in shape for the Canadiens series.

4. P.K. A-1. An area in need of sharpness in the upcoming Montreal series will be high-class penalty-killing. The Rangers batted a thousand at Canadian Tire Centre, killing three out of three penalties.

TURNING POINT: Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman broke the 0-0 tie with a goal at 3:04 of the second period. The Rangers’ thrusts never were serious enough to get them on the board from that point to their late goal near the finish.

BEST SAVE: Lundqvist stoned ex-teammate Derick Brassard — DB had scored Ottawa’s second goal — late in the third period. Alex Burrows launched the play by skimming a cross-crease pass to a wide-open Brassard. Hank went from left to right in spread-eagle fashion for the highlight-reel stop.

BEST CHAT: At game’s end, the former mates — Lundqvist and Brassard — exchanged on-ice pleasantries as they next prepare for their respective playoffs.

BEST MATH NOTE: The Rangers have tallied 253 goals this season. This is the most the club has produced in one campaign since 2005-06 when the team registered 257.


MAVEN REPORTER SAM STERN: “Alain Vigneault rested seven of his regulars. That explains the result.”

COMING ATTRACTIONS: The Penguins close the regular season at The Garden tonight.

GAME TIME: 7 p.m, MSG Network.

BOTTOM LINE: With the first-round bout with the Canadiens to begin in Montreal later this week, the target for tonight is to escape with no injuries and all hands tweaking whatever A.V. believes should be fixed!