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No shortage of drama in regular-season finale

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers


On Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, the Rangers can clinch the Atlantic Division title with a victory over the Ottawa Senators, making this one of the most notable regular-season finales in Rangers history.

Since the NHL expanded from the Original Six teams in 1967, the Blueshirts have won three division championships (in 1990, 1992 and 1994). However, all of these division titles had been clinched prior to the final regular-season game. Tuesday night's regular-season finale against the Senators marks the first time in post-1967 Rangers history that a division title was in play for the Blueshirts on the last day of the regular season.

Although the Rangers have never played for a division title in their season finale before, they have had several meaningful season-enders that determined whether or not they would make the playoffs. However, in all of those games, the Rangers did not control their own destiny, since another team had to lose in order for a Rangers' victory to matter.

Tuesday night's game thus marks the first regular-season finale since 1967 in which the Rangers can improve their playoff positioning regardless of what happens elsewhere in the league.

Here is a year-by-year look back at the Rangers' last 20 regular-season finales.

Season: 2003-04
Date: April 3, 2004
Opponent: Washington
Site: Washington
Final Score: Rangers 3, Washington 2 (OT)
Noteworthy: Bobby Holik deflected in a Thomas Pöck shot at 1:08 of overtime for his second goal of the game.
Playoff implications: None for either team since both had already been eliminated from postseason race.

Season: 2002-03
Date: April 5, 2003
Opponent: Montreal
Site: Montreal
Final Score: Montreal 5, Rangers 4
Noteworthy: Sandy McCarthy scored two goals for the Blueshirts
Playoff implications: None for either team since both had already been eliminated from postseason race. The Rangers had been eliminated with a loss to New Jersey the previous night.

Season: 2001-02
Date: April 13, 2002
Opponent: Philadelphia
Site: Philadelphia
Final Score: Philadelphia 2, Rangers 1
Noteworthy: Dan Blackburn made 43 saves in defeat.
Playoff implications: None for the Rangers, who had already been eliminated from the postseason race. Philadelphia clinched the Atlantic Division with its victory by taking a three-point lead over the Islanders.

Season: 2000-01
Date: April 7, 2001
Opponent: Florida
Site: Florida
Final Score:Florida 3, Rangers 0
Playoff implications: None for either team since both had already been eliminated from postseason race.

Season: 1999-00
Date: April 9, 2000
Opponent: Philadelphia
Site: Madison Square Garden
Final Score: Philadelphia 4, Rangers 1
Playoff implications: None for the Rangers, who had already been eliminated from the postseason race. Philadelphia clinched the Atlantic Division and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with its victory, passing New Jersey in the standings.

Season: 1998-99
Date: April 18, 1999
Opponent: Pittsburgh
Site: Madison Square Garden
Final Score: Pittsburgh 2, Rangers 1 (OT)
Noteworthy: Wayne Gretzky's final game ended when Pittsburgh's Jaromir Jagr scored in overtime.
Playoff implications: None for either team since the Rangers had already been eliminated from the playoff race and Pittsburgh was already locked into the East's No. 7 seed.

Season: 1997-98
Date: April 18, 1998
Opponent: Philadelphia
Site: Philadelphia
Final Score: Rangers 2, Philadelphia 1
Noteworthy: Adam Graves scored the game-winner at 19:54 of the first period, giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
Playoff implications: None for the Rangers, who had already been eliminated from the postseason race. The loss prevented Philadelphia from moving into the East's No. 2 spot, which would have happened if the Flyers had won and Pittsburgh had lost. The Penguins, however, beat Boston.

Season: 1996-97
Date: April 11, 1997
Opponent: Tampa Bay
Site: Madison Square Garden
Final Score: Tampa Bay 4, Rangers 2
Playoff implications: The loss prevented the Rangers from possibly moving up to the East's No. 4 seed, which would have happened if the Rangers had won and Florida had lost. Florida, however, beat Pittsburgh.

Season: 1995-96
Date: April 14, 1997
Opponent: Florida
Site: Florida
Final Score: Florida 5, Rangers 1'
Playoff implications: None for the Rangers, who were already locked into the East's No. 3 seed. The win enabled Florida to hold off Boston and finish fourth in the East.

Season: 1995
Date: May 2, 1995
Opponent: Florida
Site: Madison Square Garden
Final Score: Florida 4, Rangers 3
Noteworthy: Pat Verbeek made it a one-goal game with a power-play tally at 19:10 of the third period.
Playoff implications: None for the Rangers, who had already locked up the No. 8 spot when they reached 47 points in the previous game, preventing Florida from catching them in the finale.

Season: 1993-94
Date: April 14, 1994
Opponent: Philadelphia
Site: Madison Square Garden
Final Score: Rangers 2, Philadelphia 2
Playoff implications: None for either team since the Rangers had already locked up the No. 1 spot in the East and the President's Trophy as NHL regular-season champion, and Philadelphia had already been eliminated from the postseason race.

Season: 1992-93
Date: April 16, 1993
Opponent: Washington
Site: Washington
Final Score: Washington 4, Rangers 2
Playoff implications: None for either team since the Rangers had already been eliminated from the postseason race and Washington had already locked up the No. 2 seed in the Patrick Division

Season: 1991-92
Date: April 16, 1992
Opponent: Pittsburgh
Site: Madison Square Garden
Final Score: Rangers 7, Pittsburgh 1
Noteworthy: Darren Turcotte scored a hat trick for the Blueshirts.
Playoff implications: None for either team since the Rangers had already locked up the Patrick Division crown and the regular-season title, and Pittsburgh had already locked up the No. 3 seed in the Patrick Division.

Season: 1990-91
Date: March 31, 1991
Opponent: Pittsburgh
Site: Madison Square Garden
Final Score: Rangers 6, Pittsburgh 3
Noteworthy: The Rangers scored three unanswered goals in the third period to build up a 6-2 lead.
Playoff implications: With the win, the Rangers clinched the No. 2 spot in the Patrick Division. Had the Rangers lost and Washington won at Buffalo, the Capitals would have passed the Rangers in the standings. The Caps, however, lost at Buffalo.

Season: 1989-90
Date: April 1, 1990
Opponent: Washington
Site: Madison Square Garden
Final Score: Washington 3, Rangers 2
Noteworthy: Dino Ciccarelli scored two goals in the third period for Washington. The Rangers played without Brian Leetch, David Shaw and Mark Hardy, who were all out with injuries.
Playoff implications: None for either team since the Rangers had already clinched the Patrick Division title - their first division title since 1941-42 - and Washington had already locked up third place in the Patrick.

Season: 1988-89
Date: April 2, 1989
Opponent: N.Y. Islanders
Site: Madison Square Garden
Final Score: Islanders 6, Rangers 4
Noteworthy: Pat LaFontaine and Mikko Makela each had two goals for the Islanders
Playoff implications: Despite the loss, the Rangers clinched the No. 3 seed in the Patrick Division because Philadelphia also lost to Pittsburgh that day. Had Philadelphia won, the Rangers would have finished fourth.

Season: 1987-88
Date: April 3, 1988
Opponent: Quebec
Site: Madison Square Garden
Final Score: Rangers 3, Quebec 0
Noteworthy: John Ogrodnick, Mark Hardy and Don Maloney all scored in the third period.
Playoff implications: The Rangers knew they had to win and New Jersey had to lose in order for the Blueshirts to finish fourth in the Patrick Division and made the playoffs. Although the Rangers won, New Jersey beat Chicago on an overtime goal by John MacLean to take the final playoff spot away from the Blueshirts. Quebec had already been eliminated from the postseason race

Season: 1986-87
Date: April 5, 1987
Opponent: Montreal
Site: Madison Square Garden
Final Score: Montreal 8, Rangers 2
Playoff implications: None for either team since the Rangers had already locked up the No. 4 seed in the Patrick Division and Montreal had already locked up second in the Adams Division.

Season: 1985-86
Date: April 6, 1986
Opponent: Pittsburgh
Site: Madison Square Garden
Final Score: Pittsburgh 5, Rangers 4 (OT)
Playoff implications: None for either team since the Rangers had already locked up the No. 4 spot in the Patrick Division and Pittsburgh had already been eliminated from the postseason race.
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