Shootout wins are good and not so good

New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, right, deflects New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, right, deflects a shot by Philadelphia Flyers' Claude Giroux, left, in a shootout of the overtime period. The Rangers won 3-2. (April 3, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

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Arthur Staple Arthur Staple

Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school sports, hockey and football. ...

PHILADELPHIA

Ryan McDonagh wasn't even willing to consider the mathematics involved in determining whether his Rangers have enough non-shootout wins to get in the playoffs.

"I don't even know how it works, honestly," the rookie defenseman said. "All I know is we need as many points as we can get."

The Rangers grabbed a shootout win over the Flyers Sunday. They got two crucial points and remained in eighth place, two points ahead of Carolina with three games to play.

But if the Rangers finish tied in points, Sunday's 3-2 win doesn't count.

In the illogical logic of the NHL, shootouts still are good for the game and the fans, but not for breaking ties in the standings, even to determine who makes the postseason and who does not. So only 33 of the Rangers' 42 wins count for the purposes of tiebreaking, but they get all of their 89 points, two more than they had last season.

And the shootout, of course, factored in mightily last season, in this same Wachovia Center. Olli Jokinen's weak attempt on Philadelphia goalie Brian Boucher sent the Rangers home and the Flyers to the playoffs -- and, ultimately, to the Stanley Cup Finals -- and John Tortorella was left bemoaning his team's failures during the final month and how bad the shootout is for the game.

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For the record, Tortorella hasn't changed his feeling about the shootout; he still dislikes it. "Yes, I do," he said. "National Hockey League games should not end like that."

That said, Tortorella has a team that is built for the shootout. His steady but less-than-mobile defense is perpetually on the defensive in the four-on-four overtime period, as it was Sunday, when the Flyers' very talented group of forwards came in wave after wave.

So the Rangers are not a dynamic team that can trade chance for chance in OT. Plus, they have Henrik Lundqvist. "He's the best in the game," Tortorella said of his goaltender in the shootout.

Lundqvist said he was "tense" down the stretch in the third and in OT, not only knowing that his team needed two points from this game but also flashing back to last April 11, when he was one of a very few Rangers to bring his best to game No. 82. Claude Giroux beat Lundqvist in that shootout, Jokinen meekly missed and that was that.

Lundqvist stopped Giroux Sunday, two of the Rangers' shootout specialists, Erik Christensen (5-for-8 this season) and Wojtek Wolski (4-for-9), beat Sergei Bobrovsky, and the Rangers went to 9-3 in shootouts. They also went to 28-0-0 when leading after two periods, even if they needed the OT and the skills competition to get there.

"There was a little bit, yeah," Marc Staal admitted, referring to flashing back to last year when the horn sounded for the end of overtime. "I had a good feeling we'd pull it off, though."

This Rangers team also is 6-1-1 in games after allowing at least five goals, as they did in Thursday's 6-2 loss to the Islanders. There's a greater confidence in themselves, in their gritty style of play; nearly every Ranger had an ice bag on some appendage Sunday after blocking 23 Flyers shots.

With three games to go, the Rangers still occupy a playoff position, shootout wins and crazy NHL math be damned.

"It doesn't make a difference at this point," Ryan Callahan said. "Regulation, OT, shootout -- we need wins. We'll take 'em any way we can get 'em."

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