Thursday, April 25, 2013

Rangers, Senators claim playoff spots in Overtime


The Rangers were three minutes away from having to win in their final game on Saturday in order to clinch the playoffs. 

Then the comeback came in Raleigh.

Jiri Tlusty had put the Hurricanes on top to kick off the 3rd Period, geting an assist from Eric Staal.  The Rangers, on the Power Play, evened the score as the clock ticked under 3 minutes left with Brad Richards' 11th goal of the season. 

In overtime, the Hurricanes made the Rangers sweat, forcing Henrik Lundqvist to make some stellar saves to keep the puck out of the net.  Finally, the Rangers were able to clear the zone and generate some offense.  It worked, as the capital, Ryan Callahan clinched the Rangers spot in the postseason with his 15th goal of the season.

Further up I-95, the Ottawa Senators were under the same premise.  Win, and they'll be one of the 8 Eastern Conference teams to play in the postseason.  With a 1-0 lead, things were looking good for the Senators until Alex Ovechkin continued his push for the Hart Trophy with his 32nd goal of the season 8 minutes into the 3rd Period. 

Guaranteed a point, the Senators pushed for the 2nd when Sergei Gonchar netted his 3rd of the season, beating the Capitals in overtime and clinching a playoff spot. 

Meanwhile, over in Manitoba, the Jets were leading the Montreal Canadiens 2-1.  Once both these games became final, it became official that the Jets would not be playing past this game.  As the wheels came off in their postseason bid, so too did their chances of winning the game against the Canadiens, as Montreal netted three goals in the 3rd to prevail 4-2. 

So now all 8 spots in the East have been claimed.  Pittsburgh and Washington are locked in their division crowns, carrying the 1 and 3 seeds into the playoffs.  Both Boston and Montreal are tied for their division, however the Bruins have the advantage of the game in-hand thanks to the postponed game that will be played Sunday night.  Toronto, the Islanders and Rangers , and the Ottawa Senators, will cap the 8 team field.  The Islanders, Rangers and Senators all have 54 points, although the Senators have a game in-hand.  If it comes down to the Rangers and the Islanders for seeding, the Rangers have the tie-breaker over the two squads.

Regardless of what happens, it's going to be a fantastic NHL Postseason.  

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