helped the New York Rangers
get off to a torrid start this season, kept them afloat during a mid-year slump and was front and center yet again Thursday night as the Blueshirts wrapped up their fourth straight berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Lundqvist made 37 saves and tied a career-high with his 37th win of the season as the Rangers edged the Philadelphia Flyers
2-1 at Madison Square Garden, putting an end to any uncertainty about their plans for this time next week.
New York finished the night seventh in the Eastern Conference, even in points with Montreal at 93 but owning the first tiebreaker by virtue of having one more win. Each team has one regular-season game remaining: The Canadiens host Pittsburgh on Saturday night while the Rangers end their season in Philadelphia on Sunday.
scored the game-winning goal and set up an earlier first-period tally by Markus Naslund
. After that, the Rangers turned the game over to Lundqvist. He didn't disappoint, stopping all 16 shots he faced in the opening period and going a perfect 10-for-10 in the third to secure the victory.
"It feels really good," said Lundqvist, the first NHL goalie to win at least 30 games in each of his first four seasons. "It's a tight game and it's fun when you can feel like you're (making) a difference. You make a couple big saves and you help the team to win, and that's why I'm the goalie.
"You want to help the team to win every night. It's a good feeling when you can be there for the guys. They were working so hard tonight. Great feeling."
The only blemish on Lundqvist's night was a power-play goal by Daniel Briere
midway through the second period. Philadelphia got a strong effort in net from Martin Biron
, who stopped 29 shots, but stayed even in points with Carolina and Pittsburgh at 97.
The Flyers hold down the fourth seed and have the inside track at finishing there because they have two games left to the other teams' one. They play the last-place Islanders on the road Saturday afternoon before returning home to face the Rangers on Sunday.
"We pretty much controlled that game," forward Daniel Carcillo
said. "We were unlucky on the first goal, but we kept going after them. It's a tough loss."
Naslund opened the scoring just 52 seconds in with a disputed goal that needed video replay to uphold. On a goalmouth scramble, Naslund and Callahan both took swipes at the puck as Biron attempted to cover it up. Eventually both the goaltender and the puck ended up in the net -- and referee Don VanMassenhoven ruled the play a goal, a call that stood after it was reviewed.
"I thought I had it covered up," Biron said. "I was above the goal line and all of a sudden I was struggling to keep my hands above the goal line. The referee seemed to have a clear view of it. It certainly made a big difference in the game."
Callahan made it 2-0 with 7:54 left in the first, deflecting Derek Morris
' drive from the right point past Biron for his career-high 22nd goal of the season.
"It's more excitement than relief," Callahan said. "We've been working hard and it's exciting to get that final push and finally get a spot."
A holding penalty to Mark Staal led to the Flyers' goal. Rangers defenseman Paul Mara
blocked a shot by Kimmo Timonen
but was hobbled on the play; the puck ended up with a wide-open Briere, who flipped a shot over Lundqvist at 9:14 of the middle period.
Except for that, the Rangers' goalie was impenetrable. If he starts and beats Philadelphia again on Sunday, Lundqvist will best the wins mark he set for himself in 2006-07 and matched last season.
"They're a tough team to play, but we played really well," Lundqvist said. "It was close in the end, but we did the right things. The last couple weeks, we had a really good feeling in the locker room, playing a lot better, and here we are."
New York seemed on the verge of dropping out of the top eight in late February, when Tom Renney was fired as coach and replaced by John Tortorella. The Rangers are 11-7-2 since then, including 7-4-1 in their last dozen games.
"We're going to try and win Sunday, and then we’re going to go to work and get ready for the playoffs," Tortorella said. "We've got a lot of work to do, and we need to improve in all areas. But it’s good to be in."
Material from wire services and team broadcast and online media was used in this report