Brian Boucher stopped Olli Jokinen on the final attempt of the
shootout to send the Philadelphia Flyers into the playoffs while
eliminating the New York Rangers with a 2-1 victory Sunday.
The final game of the regular season felt more like Game 7
of a playoff series. Win and advance; lose and go home.
The Flyers earned the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference
and will play either Buffalo or New Jersey.
The Rangers forced what was essentially a one-game playoff
when they beat the Flyers on Friday night. Rangers goalie Henrik
Lundqvist was sensational, but Matt Carle tied the game at 1 early
in the third period.
Danny Briere and Claude Giroux scored in the shootout for
the Flyers. In between, P.A. Parenteau scored for the Rangers.
Lundqvist was stellar in goal, stopping 46 shots from every
angle from Philadelphia. The Flyers outshot the Rangers by a 2-1
margin for most of the game, but could never slip the puck past the
goalie coach John Tortorella expected to carry them into the
Jody Shelley came close to haunting the Flyers for a long
summer. He hadn’t scored all season until he got one in Friday’s
4-3 win that pushed the Rangers to the brink of the postseason.
Shelley struck again and quieted a rowdy crowd when he
scored only 3:27 into Sunday’s game. He deflected a shot from the
point past a stunned Boucher for a 1-0 lead.
That’s the way it stood – and felt like it would stand with
the way Lundqvist played.
The mood at the Wachovia Center was just like a playoff game
from the warmups.
The crowd roared when Lauren Hart, the daughter of longtime
former Flyers broadcaster Gene Hart, sang “God Bless America,”
alternating lyrics with Kate Smith, who was on a video image.
Smith’s rendition of the song has been a rallying anthem for the
Flyers since the mid 1970s.
The Flyers ended a pregame video with a simple message:
“Today We Clinch!”
They did. All they needed was three periods, overtime, a
thrilling shootout in the 82nd game.
Lundqvist made the 1-0 lead stand until early in the third.
Briere’s shot from the circle bounced off the goalie and Jeff
Carter poked the rebound to Matt Carle for his sixth goal of the
season and a 1-1 score.
The Flyers were pegged as preseason Stanley Cup favorites
until a series of injuries in goal nearly cost them the postseason.
Coach Peter Laviolette couldn’t turn them into consistent winners
once he took over for the fired John Stevens in December. They all
get a chance at putting an underachieving regular season behind
them starting this week.
As good as Lundqvist was, he didn’t get it done in the
Briere scored on the first attempt, and Erik Christensen
missed for New York. Mike Richards missed for the Flyers and
Parenteau’s goal evened it.
Giroux scored to set up Jokinen’s final attempt. Boucher
made a pad stop and the Flyers’ stormed the ice and mobbed the
goalie in celebration.
The Rangers head home after a strong run to end the season.
Their three-week run wasn’t enough and they’ll miss the postseason
for the first time since the 2003-04 season.