"We wanted to give ourselves a chance, and that's what we accomplished these last few games," said assistant captain Vinny Prospal.
This sentiment was echoed throughout the locker room as the New York Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4 - 3 in a must-win regular season finale at MSG.
"We've been playing really well as a team," added Prospal.
The Rangers needed a regulation victory and they got it, despite a precarious start.
Only 40 seconds into the game, typically-stalwart Marc Staal committed a glaring turnover in the slot that gave Mike Richards an open shot at the net and the game's first goal.
But the resilience the Rangers have shown in the past month was again evident as they shrugged the goal off and would capitalize on their first power play.
Brandon Prust skated hard at the net when he was taken down by agitator Danny Carcillo. Prust was cut on the play so the Rangers were awarded four minutes of critical power play time. Just prior to the first penalty expiring, the Captain would chime in.
Dan Girardi kept in a bouncing puck which found it's way to winger Erik Christensen just outside the slot. Christensen settled the puck and threaded a blind backhand pass to Chris Drury who was waiting eagerly at the side of the net.
Then, a little over three minutes later, it would be Jody Shelley who got his first goal of the season. Center Artem Anisimov poked the puck forward on an offensive zone draw and Shelley charged the net, putting a snap shot into the corner over netminder Brian Boucher.
One of the major reasons the Rangers have been able to sustain the turnaround has been the consistent play throughout all four lines. In the past nine games, where the Rangers are 7 - 1 - 1, with each line has come up big at times, particularly the quasi-fourth line of Prust, Anisimov and Shelley.
"They're doing their job," said Head Coach Tortorella who used the line at many points against Philadelphia's top line.
But with the game on the line, it would be the big dogs that sealed the deal.
At 6:58 of the second period, Brandon Dubinsky saw a streaking Marian Gaborik alongside the opposing net. Gaborik appeared to be headed for the wrap-around when he unexpectedly dropped the puck on the short side for Dubinsky. Dubinsky, who set a career-high in goals with 20, put the puck over Boucher to give the Rangers the 3 - 1 lead.
Despite the momentum in the Rangers favor, the Flyers didn't roll over. Danny Briere and Mike Richards took advantage of some sloppy defensive lapses to tie the game with about six minutes remaining in the second period.
But the Rangers would not be denied.
Gaborik pressured defenseman Chris Pronger on the offensive blueline causing a turning over and rushed to the slot. Just as the Philadelphia defender came across, Gaborik shot a bouncing puck that found a way to the high far-side of the net and ultimately sealed the victory for New York.
"I just tried to get the shot off, it went off Boucher's glove, but it counts," said Gaborik. "We have to play in their end to be successful."
Now the Rangers have 24-hours to prepare for their biggest game of the season with their postseason lives on the line.
But as Henrik Lundqvist exclaimed, "it's going to be exciting."
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