NEW YORK --- The news wasn't official until the Detroit Red Wings were back in the visitors dressing room at Madison Square Garden, taking off their gear following what could have been a disheartening and potential season-ending 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers.
With help from the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, the Red Wings clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 25th consecutive season. Ottawa's 6-1 win against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden was what the Red Wings needed to lock up third place in the Atlantic Division.
"It was not the most fun walk I had from the ice to the locker room," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said, "but the turnaround was pretty sweet."
Detroit (41-30-11) will play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round. The playoffs begin Wednesday. The Lightning eliminated the Red Wings in a seven-game first-round series last season.
Video: DET@NYR: Hayes deflects McIlrath's shot into the net
"I think we can do it," Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. "I mean, you just have to get in. You never know what can happen. It's a new season now. This is the fun time. It's another great accolade, 25 straight years running. Now we just go out there and just play."
The Red Wings came into Saturday in control of their destiny. A regulation or overtime win against the Rangers would be enough to clinch a playoff berth. That they got in with some assistance from the Senators was of little consequence to them.
"We earned ourselves this spot," Zetterberg said after offering some thanks to the Senators anyway. "You count the points from Game 1. If you're in the playoffs, you earned the spot, and we're there."
The Rangers (46-27-9) moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 101 points. The fourth-place New York Islanders (99 points) played the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday and host the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. The Rangers own the tiebreaker on the Islanders.
Video: DET@NYR: Sheahan ties the game on the power play
The Rangers will play either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Florida Panthers in the first round.
"If you're looking to get done what we want to get done, you're going to have to play all the good teams anyway, so it doesn't matter," Rangers center Derek Stepan said. "We certainly weren't trying to pick our opponent. We were focused on playing the best brand of hockey. If we end up with [Pittsburgh], we know they're playing the best of anyone in the NHL right now so it's going to be a real tough test. But you have to play all the good teams to win."
Rangers forward Oscar Lindberg's empty-net goal at 17:24 of the third period was the difference Saturday because Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader scored on a deflection at 18:26.
Howard said he asked forward Luke Glendening what the score of the game in Boston was after Lindberg scored to put New York up 3-1.
"He said it was 5-1," Howard said. "I looked at him and I said, 'Yeah, right.' "
Video: DET@NYR: Boyle lights the lamp on two-on-one rush
Believe it or not, Ottawa was up 6-1 by the time the Red Wings got into the locker room after they couldn't score on a power play in the final 73 seconds, including a 6-on-3 with the goalie pulled for the final 19.9 seconds.
Forward Kevin Hayes put the Rangers ahead 2-1 at 14:22 of the third period with a deflection of defenseman Dylan McIlrath's shot from the right point.
Rangers goalie Antti Raanta made 31 saves. New York also got a goal from defenseman Dan Boyle in the first period.
Howard made 17 saves and Riley Sheahan scored for the Red Wings.
"It's a fresh start," Howard said of the playoffs. "Now it's a new season so let's go have some fun down in Tampa."
Video: DET@NYR: Raanta robs Zetterberg on the doorstep
Rangers forward Eric Staal sustained an upper-body injury with 1:51 remaining in the second period. Coach Alain Vigneault said Staal was held out of the third period for precautionary reasons.
"He should be fine," Vigneault said.
Staal was looking down for the puck after a faceoff against Glendening when Rangers forward Jesper Fast skated backward into his head. Staal stayed face down on the ice for a while before skating off hunched over and with some assistance.
"He's going to be a big part of it for us," said defenseman Marc Staal, Eric's brother. "Hopefully it's not serious."
Video: Raanta makes 31 saves as Rangers edge Red Wings, 3-2