PHILADELPHIA -- The New York Rangers said they weren't as much concerned with what could happen as what had to happen for them.
They needed a win to guarantee themselves a spot in the Eastern Conference's top eight after Sunday's action, and after Erik Christensen and Wojtek Wolski scored in the shootout that's just what they got with a 3-2 victory here at the Wells Fargo Center against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Bryan McCabe and Ruslan Fedotenko scored in regulation for the Rangers, who snapped a two-game losing streak. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist stopped 32 of 34 shots, and then stopped Nikolay Zherdev and Claude Giroux in the shootout.
James van Riemsdyk and Zherdev scored for the Flyers, and Giroux had a pair of assists as Philadelphia returned to the top of the Eastern Conference standings by virtue of the point earned from a regulation tie. The Flyers and Washington Capitals each have 103 points, but the Flyers have one more regulation/overtime win than the Capitals, 43-42.
The shootout defeat also extended the Flyers' winless streak on home ice to six games (0-2-4). They have just one regulation home win in their last 12 games (2-5-5).
The victory gives the Rangers 89 points and at least a one-point advantage on ninth-place Carolina regardless of what happens in the Hurricanes' game against the Buffalo Sabres Sunday. However, it doesn't sound like the Rangers will be doing much scoreboard watching.
"The main focus and our main goal was to get as many points as possible and make sure we play the way we're supposed to," said Wolski. "I think we've been playing very well of late beside those two games where we struggled a bit. The focus is on playing our game."
That's something the team tried to do with two days off following Thursday's 6-2 loss to the Islanders, which came 24 hours after a 1-0 loss to the Sabres.
"Some of it is the stuff on the ice, some of it is the mindset and attitude," said coach John Tortorella. "As a coach you're always looking to improve all the time. I felt the process we went through, I thought they handled it very well and I thought it showed up today."
"We had a couple days to think about what happened and what went wrong and what we had to adjust," added Lundqvist. "We had some good meetings, good practices and we wanted to make sure we didn't have a similar performance. We wanted to bounce back with a really good effort, and more importantly we needed points."
Lundqvist said he didn't feel like he played a great first period, but the only goal he allowed was van Riemsdyk's 21st of the season. With Danny Briere sitting out with lower-body soreness, the new-look trio of Giroux centering van Riemsdyk and Zherdev played well, cycling the puck down low along the left side. Giroux eventually got the puck to Sean O'Donnell at the left point. He fired a shot that Lundqvist stopped, but van Riemsdyk pounced on the rebound and flipped a backhander into the back of the net at 12:25.
It looked like that goal would hold up as the only one of the first period, but when Braydon Coburn was called for high-sticking Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, he joined teammate Matt Carle in the penalty box, giving the Rangers a 5-on-3 opportunity for the final 34 seconds of the period.
As time wound down, McCabe got the puck in the center of the zone just inside the blue line, and his rocket went over the glove of Flyers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky with 0.7 seconds left on the clock.
"Our power play on the Island, we generated chances 5-on-4, but our 5-on-3 was brutal," said Tortorella. "To come back and score a huge goal 5-on-3 tonight, try to regain some confidence, is huge."
Fedotenko put the Rangers ahead 2-1 at 13:30 of the second period, moments after the Rangers killed off a Flyers power play. Vinny Prospal had the puck roll off his stick as he tried to bring it in front of the Philadelphia net, but it rolled right to Fedotenko, who scored his 10th of the season, and 14th in 37 games against the team he started his NHL career with.
The Flyers drew even early in the third on Zherdev's 16th of the season. It was his first since Jan. 23, a span of 11 games for him, but actually 30 if you include the 19 times he's been a healthy scratch in the last 25 games.
On the play, Zherdev took advantage of an injury to Ryan McDonagh, who was shaken up when he blocked an Andrej Meszaros shot and had to get off the ice. Michael Sauer and Brian Boyle both covered Giroux on the left side, but he threaded a pass to a cutting Zherdev that he tipped past Lundqvist at 4:32.
"That was really impressive what (Zherdev) did, playing that last game in Jersey (Friday) and then coming in tonight and playing really well," said O'Donnell. "He had a huge goal. ... That's hats off to him for going through what he has gone through this year and come in. This is a tough stretch right now. We are playing some tough teams. I thought he has played really well."
The Rangers have another tough game Monday against the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS), but they play their final three regular-season games at home, where they're just 18-16-4, but have won four of their last five (4-0-1).
"We've played well at home and I'm sure the (Madison Square Garden) crowd will be great," said Brian Boyle. "I'm looking forward to it."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
James van Riemsdyk
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