The New York Rangers are relishing the opportunity to close out
the regular season with a victory that will put them in the
playoffs. The Philadelphia Flyers are hoping to hang on after
missing out on a chance to get in and eliminate New York.
The Rangers and Flyers meet Sunday afternoon at the Wachovia
Center with the postseason on the line for the Atlantic Division
Philadelphia (40-35-6) had an opportunity to clinch a spot and
finish off New York (38-33-10) on Friday at Madison Square Garden,
but the Rangers recovered from Mike Richards’ goal 40 seconds into
the game for a 4-3 win.
The result left both teams with 86 points heading into Sunday’s
“I’m just glad we gave ourselves another day,” said captain
Chris Drury, who scored the tying goal in the first period. “We
wanted another chance and we battled pretty hard the last couple of
weeks to get to Game 82.”
The game turned when Daniel Carcillo took a double-minor in the
opening period for high-sticking Brandon Prust that led to Drury’s
power-play goal. Jody Shelley added his first to give New York a
2-1 lead after it outshot Philadelphia 12-4 in the first.
“They had the better of us for that first period,” Flyers coach
Peter Laviolette said. “We need to be more powerful than them for
longer stretches. It’s a big game tomorrow, we’ll need some
Richards had his first two-goal game since Feb. 1, tying the
game late in the second period before Marion Gaborik put New York
ahead for good. Gaborik has a career-high 86 points, and his 42
goals match his career best set in 2007-08.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 10 shots he faced in the third
period to help set up this showdown.
“If you can’t embrace this situation and give it your best,
there’s something wrong,” Philadelphia general manager Paul
Holmgren said. “I expect us to play a good game.”
This contest will mark the third time in Flyers history a
playoff spot will be determined in the final game of the season and
the first since 1972. Philadelphia is happy to be back home, where
it is 14-5-1 since the start of January.
“I’ve never seen anything this close, anything like it, but we
might as well embrace it, enjoy it,” right wing Ian Laperriere
said. “I know our fans are going to go crazy tomorrow. We need that
and it’s going to be a fun game to play.”
The Flyers had done a good job against Gaborik before he had a
goal and an assist Friday, holding him without a point in the first
four meetings. New York and Philadelphia have split two games at
the Wachovia Center, with the Rangers winning 2-1 on Dec. 19 and
the Flyers winning 2-0 on Jan. 21.
New York has the momentum, going 7-1-1 in its last nine while
Philadelphia enters in a 3-7-1 tailspin.
“Two weeks ago, three weeks ago, I think everybody didn’t
believe in us,” Gaborik said, “but here we are with one game left.
Our destiny is in our own hands.”