New York Rangers top New Jersey Devils, 5-2, qualify for playoffs in final game of regular season
When the sun rose on the last day of their 2010-2011 regular season, there was only one combination of events that could lead to a Rangers Stanley Cup playoff berth: a win against the Devils in their afternoon game at Madison Square Garden and a Tampa Bay Lightning victory over the Hurricanes in North Carolina at night. Well, that’s just what happened yesterday as the Rangers took care of business in their 5-2 win, and the Lightning, who had already clinched the #5 seed in the conference and had nothing to play for, surprisingly jumped to a 4-0 lead against Carolina and ultimately won the game, 6-2.
After they failed to make the playoffs last year by falling to the Philadelphia Flyers in their final game, the Rangers, who finished this season with a solid 44-33-5 record, will face the Washington Capitals in the first round. They’ve posted a 3-1 record against the Eastern Conference-leading team this year, including a pair of shocking 7-0 and 6-0 shutouts. They faced the Capitals in the first round two years ago and lost in seven games. This should be a competitive and interesting series!
Fun fact: This is the first time since 1997 that the Rangers and Knicks, Madison Square Garden’s two men’s pro sports teams, have both made the playoffs in the same season.
Photos by Avi Gerver, ©Madison Square Garden, L.P.
The national anthem:
New York’s Marian Gaborik tries to squeeze between two Devils in pursuit of the puck:
The Rangers’ Brandon Dubinsky gets physical with a Devils player:
Chris Drury, the Rangers captain, returned to the lineup after missing two months due to a knee injury and kicked things off with a goal in the first period:
New York’s Mats Zuccarello, who was called up from the team’s AHL affiliate in Connecticut for the game primarily as a shootout specialist, chipped in with an assist on Drury’s goal.
Ryan McDonagh celebrates his first NHL goal, the game-winning goal, with fellow Rangers rookie defenseman Michael Sauer:
Later in the second period, Brandon Prust slips one past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur to put the Rangers up 4-2:
Martin Brodeur, the Devils franchise goalie since 1993, can only look on as Vinny Prospal (third Ranger from left) celebrates his goal with teammates and fans, giving the team a solid 5-2 lead. Brodeur and the Devils will miss the playoffs this season for the first time since 1996.