Overcast 37° Good Evening
Overcast 37° Good Evening

The stage is set...

                 ...for a frantic finish.
                  Following tonight’s 5-1 dispatching of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Rangers turned the upcoming home-and-home weekend showdown with the Flyers into a play-in series for the Eastern Conference post-season party.
                   Rebounding from Tuesday’s 5-2 loss at the hands of the Northeast Division champions Sabres, Erik Christensen scored twice in a three-goal barrage in the first period last night---the first at the 21-second mark---and Olli Jokinen and Aaron Voros sealed the win with goals in the third period.
                   The Rangers, now on a 6-1-1 roll that has carried them back into the hunt after being seven points out after a loss to the Bruins on March 21, have 84 points, within striking distance of the seventh-place Flyers, who have 86 and come into the Garden on Friday night before hosting the Rangers in Philadelphia for a regular-season ending Sunday matinee. The victory also closed the gap on the eighth-place Bruins, who have 85 points but a game in hand on the Rangers. Boston hosts the Sabres tonight.
                   “We got a great start and we handled it really well,” said Henrik Lundqvist, who made 26 saves a night after being pulled early in the second period in Buffalo. “In the first period, we really showed what we were fighting for here and they weren’t really ready for it.”
                     Christensen, who left the game with what appeared to be an arm injury after a check by Francois Beauchemin late in the third, opened the scoring by shoving the rebound of Brandon Dubinsky’s backhand pass from behind the net between Jonas Gustavsson’s pads. Dubinsky also assisted on Christensen’s second goal., has been hot, recording seven points (three goals and four assists) in the last eight games. His 45 points are a career high.
                     Vinny Prospal then cashed in the rebound of Olli Jokinen’s breakaway attempt with his 20th of the season at 10:26. Christensen deked and deposited the puck past Gustavsson 30 seconds later for his eighth of the season and the Rangers settled in to play sound defensive hockey the rest of the way.  “We have our destiny in our hands,” said Prospal.
                    Both Chris Drury and Brandon Prust had opportunities to extend the lead on shorthanded shots in the second. Drury hit the crossbar from the left circle and Prust’s attempt was stopped by Gustavsson.
                    Christensen’s second multi-goal game of the season ended late in the third when he got shaken up on a Francois Beauchemin hit and went to the dressing room, but seemed okay afterward.
                    “He’s been put on a good spot on that top line. We need him to play that way consistently,” Tortorella said of Christensen. “He was challenged a little bit before the game along with a couple of other guys. We wanted to make the Philly games count. And now they do.”
                    Marian Gaborik, whose assist on Christensen’s second gave him 84 points, a career-high, said the individual achievement was nice, “but the ultimate goal is to win the final two games of the regular season, Everybody’s going to have to bring their A game from the first minute to the last.”
                   “We know we have to win both,” said Lundqvist. “It’s fun to be here. A couple weeks ago I thought we were out, but we never gave up. So the whole season comes down to this.”  


                          Extra, Extra.....

                         Prospal, reached the 20 point plateau for the fifth time in his career and added his 38th assist....Jokinen (goal and assist) has two goals and three assists in the last six games..."I thought he (Jokinen) had a little bit of a hiccup (in Buffalo). He bounced back," said Tortorella...More Torts: "You don't have to look at the (score) board anymore. It is in front of us."...Leafs coach Ron Wilson: "The Rangers were playing with the intensity you need to play with when you are on the outside looking in, trying to claw and do everything they can."...Rangers PK (4-4) is 29 for last 31....Rangers are practicing at noon Thursday...10 players had points, including assists for Parenteau, Prust and Rozsival...


New York Sports