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Rangers and Flyers ready for their final showdown

by Dan Rosen
NEW YORK -- Rangers coach John Tortorella believes the pressure going into Sunday afternoon's do-or-die game at Wachovia Center is all on the Philadelphia Flyers.

"We're loose," Tortorella said. "I think the pressure is on them. We're just trying to find our way."

Tortorella might be playing some head games with the Flyers, who host the Rangers at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, but there's a lot of truth to what he's talking about.

Left for dead on multiple occasions in the last couple of weeks, the Rangers have responded to turn the final day of the regular season into what is likely a Game 7. The winner will make the playoffs -- the loser will start a much-too-early summer vacation.

"We were counted out a few weeks ago by a number of people and we just decided that we're not going to count ourselves out," Tortorella said. "We just continued to try to peck away. Now it does come down to the last game. It is great."

It became a win-or-go-home game on Saturday when Boston and Montreal assured themselves of playoff berths. The Bruins punched their playoff ticket with a 4-2 win over Carolina in the afternoon, while the Canadiens locked up a berth by getting a point in a 4-3 overtime loss to Toronto.

But even before those games were played, the two team were focusing on their own showdown.

"I'm not going to watch the game (Saturday) to see what Boston does because I don't really care," Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky told after Friday night's game. "We have one game to get in. If we win that we're going to get in and if we don't than we're not."

"We have to welcome that challenge," Flyers center Danny Briere said. "We have to be excited about it. It doesn't get any better than this in the regular season. It's already the playoffs, so let's get excited about it."

Neither coach figures he'll have to deliver one of those Herb Brooks-type speeches. The fight is still on after 81 games; that's enough motivation.

"I'm confident in my team," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "You play the whole year for this. You get an opportunity to get the right to compete for the Cup on Sunday. We'll be ready to play. I'm confident in that."

So is Tortorella

"I think the guys have done a really good job of gathering themselves and just taking it one game at a time," he said. "Not looking at the whole picture, just try to win a game. We've done that up until this point. We've talked about just winning this game, and now it does come down to the last game."

The Rangers hold a 3-2-0 edge in the season series and are 1-1-0 at Wachovia Center. They won 2-1 on Dec. 19 and lost 2-0 on Jan. 21.

Tortorella said the Rangers are comfortable playing on the road, and they proved it during a recent six-game trip when they went 4-1-1. New York is 7-1-1 since losing three in a row to Montreal, St. Louis and Boston from March 16-21.

The 2-1 loss at Boston was the wakeup call.

"After the Boston game we talked about never giving up. We showed it a lot of games," goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "Stay in our bubble and whatever happens keep working and good things will happen. It is pretty cool to be in the last game of the year. It feels like a Game 7 and I think we earned it."

The Flyers would have liked to earn their playoff berth Friday, but they couldn't build any momentum after Mike Richards scored just 40 seconds into the game. The Rangers dominated the first period and eventually held on to win the game.

It'll be interesting to see if the Flyers, who used up their mulligan, have short memories.

"We have to be a more confident team," Richards said. "We are playing in a building that we're confident in playing in and I think that's going to help."

Either way, the season ends for one of these teams on Sunday -- provided both Boston and Montreal don't spit the bit. And here we all thought the playoffs were supposed to start after the regular season.

"You're at the end of the line here and I really think that changes the mindset," Tortorella said. "You're at the end of the line so you just let it all hang out and try to do the best you can because if you don't get it done, you're done."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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