The Pittsburgh Penguins
’ quest for their first division title in 10 years will have to wait.
On Monday night, the New York Rangers
’ drive toward home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs took precedence.
’s power-play goal 1:46 into overtime gave the Rangers a 2-1 victory at Madison Square Garden and a split of two games with the Penguins. New York is on the verge of wrapping up a playoff spot for the third straight year and could still finish as high as fourth in the Eastern Conference.
''I am not thinking about the home-ice advantage right now. I am thinking about making it,'' said Henrik Lundqvist
, who made 21 saves. ''We have been winning and taking points, but we are still close to the ninth spot.''
After Pittsburgh defenseman Sergei Gonchar
was whistled off for holding 24 seconds into the extra period, Drury capitalized on the rebound of a Jaromir Jagr
shot and beat Marc-Andre Fleury
for his 24th goal of the season and the 44th game-winner in his NHL career.
''His positioning is as good a compliment as anyone can pay because he is really good at that,'' Rangers coach Tom Renney said of Drury’s ability to consistently be in the right place at the right time.
Jagr continued his recent surge with a power-play goal as the Rangers moved into fifth in the East. They have 93 points, tied with New Jersey, but the Devils have two more wins and a game in hand. The teams meet Sunday at Prudential Center in the final game of the regular season.
scored midway through the third period to earn a point for the Penguins, putting them two ahead of idle Montreal for the conference lead. The Canadiens have three games remaining, and the Penguins two.
Fleury stopped 25 shots but Pittsburgh fell short in its bid to clinch a division for the first time since 1997-98, when the Penguins still played in the Northeast Division.
''We would have liked to (clinch),'' captain Sidney Crosby said. ''We are now one point away. It's tight hockey from here on in.''
After losing 3-1 at Mellon Arena on Sunday, the Rangers came out determined to play a stronger game and put together a dominant defensive effort in the first period. They yielded only one shot, but were unable to solve Fleury on any of the nine shots they took.
The Penguins gave the Rangers a great opportunity in the second when Ryan Whitney and Jeff Taffe were both sent off at the 10:27 mark with minor penalties, setting up a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes. New York took advantage, but it didn’t come without a long video review.
Jagr fired a shot that Fleury stopped, but the puck bounced high into the air and then somehow ended up in the net. The officials initially waived off the goal, ruling Scott Gomez had deflected it in with a high stick, but replays showed Gomez never made contact with the puck and it instead went in off the gloved hand of Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi. Jagr was awarded his 21st goal of the season and third in five games, and the Rangers had a 1-0 lead with 8:17 left in the second.
Talbot, who scored an insurance goal in the final minute of Sunday’s Pittsburgh victory, tied the game with 9:57 left in the third. Ryan Malone carried the puck into the New York zone, blew past defender Michal Rozsival and sent a crisp pass over to Talbot for his 12th of the season.
That tied the game, and the score remained knotted into overtime. Drury, who has been known to shine in pressure situations going back to his early days with Colorado, and for Buffalo against the Rangers in last spring’s playoffs, managed to come through yet again.
''I never think of my game in that light,'' Drury said when asked about his penchant for clutch plays. ''I just play my same game. Just go hard every shift.''
Thrashers 2, Lightning 0
Ilya Kovalchuk just wants to get this season over with, although his inspired play on the ice would suggest otherwise.
Kovalchuk snapped a scoreless tie with a little over five minutes left in regulation, then added an empty-netter for his 52nd goal of the season, tying a career high. In a battle between teams long out of the playoff race, Atlanta kept Tampa Bay in last place in the Eastern Conference.
''I just want to forget (the season) like a bad dream,'' Kovalchuk said.
Kari Lehtonen stopped all 36 shots he saw for his 11th career shutout and fourth of the season as the Thrashers improved to 74 points, three ahead of the Lightning.
''I haven't looked too much at the standings in the last couple of weeks,'' Lehtonen said. ''It really doesn't matter if you're in last or second to last.''
Kovalchuk, who also scored 52 goals during the 2005-06 campaign, capped a torrid month of March in which he scored 11 goals in 15 games and finished with 16 points. He has eight goals in his last seven games against the Lightning.
''He's had a great season,'' Thrashers coach Don Waddell said. ''He carried this hockey club for a couple of months early in the season. He's a goal scorer. If he gets opportunities, he's going to bury them.''
Mike Smith returned to the Tampa net after being sidelined a few games by a sprained knee and made 23 saves. He matched Lehtonen for nearly 55 minutes, until Bobby Holik teamed with Kovalchuk on the game’s first goal.
Holik sent a cross-ice pass to a hard-charging Kovalchuk, who got Smith out of position and scored with 5:05 remaining. Kovalchuk made it 2-0 with 59 seconds to play after Smith was pulled for an extra attacker.
''(The season) has got to come to an end at a certain point,'' Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle said. ''I think tonight symbolizes, to me, a lot of what's happened this year where we played hard for most of the game and we don't capitalize. (Then) the other teams score late in the third and they win the game. Tonight was a pretty good illustration of what's happened this year.''
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.