PHILADELPHIA -- For a team that had lost most of the races and one-on-one battles, that had been hanging onto a cliff by practically the last ounce of strength in Henrik Lundqvist's grip, the Rangers yesterday still, at the end of 65 minutes, had the Flyers where they wanted them.
"[Coach] John [Tortorella] even said [before the overtime], 'Don't totally sit back, but don't let it end here, because we have a big advantage in goal in the shootout,' " said Erik Christensen.
The Rangers, 7-1-1 just to get to one game for eighth place, had kept borrowing time, and Lundqvist was stealing them another two weeks. Apprehension filled the house down to the Flyers' bench.
"It's a little bit ironic, how this happens, Lundqvist being probably the best shootout goalie in the league, along with Ryan Miller," Danny Briere would say later. "The Rangers have been pretty successful and the Flyers haven't in shootouts."
Claude Giroux, the Flyers' third shooter, begged Briere, the first, to "please score and take the pressure off me." The Flyers, with their third-string goalie, Brian Boucher, weren't going to beat Lundqvist in a shootout on his worst day, and certainly not on his best, which yesterday just might have been in five Rangers seasons.
Tortorella called Lundqvist "terrific" and still was damning his goalie with faint praise. Fighting screens, rebounds and the desperate pounding of a team talented enough to have clinched a playoff berth a week ago, Lundqvist stopped Simon Gagne seven times, Jeff Carter six, Braydon Coburn five and Matt Carle four.
Carle got a fifth one by Lundqvist 6:54 into the third period, on a rebound after Artem Anisimov, who might have been the Rangers' best player yesterday, got a little too ambitious on the penalty kill and had the puck lifted at center by Carter.
Nevertheless, seconds later Lundqvist was coming across to stop Gagne, two-on-one with Daniel Carcillo, and if the goalie got lucky when the puck came back off the crossbar, he was earning his every break.
The best save of the night was soon to follow, on James van Riemsdyk's one-timer through a screen off a broken-down Coburn point drive. Lundqvist stopped Giroux on the rebound, too, to get the Rangers to the overtime, the object of which strictly was to get them to the shootout.
"I wasn't thinking about that, just concentrating on the job," Lundqvist said. "I was pretty tired."
So much shooting had the Flyers done -- 78 counting misses and blocks -- their arms by then could have been hanging limply by their sides. But Briere faked backhand, went forehand and lifted the puck halfway up the net.
Christensen went right-to-left and Boucher got it with his blocker. After Mike Richards fired wide, Boucher put his paddle down, but couldn't keep P.A. Parenteau's shot from riding up and over to tie it.
It was down to Giroux, who closed inside the hash marks and snapped the puck between Lundqvist's legs. Tortorella passed up his best player, Marian Gaborik, for one of his worst, Olli Jokinen, who had a better record in shootouts, and lost when Boucher stopped a backhander.
"It's over, and it [stinks]," said Lundqvist, terse, exhausted, devastated and ultimately human.
Said Brandon Dubinsky, "He's been our backbone all season. It hurts that we didn't get the job done for him. He deserved that."
A season's worth of the Rangers' dirty laundry inevitably came out in the Game 82 wash. And still who in the end would have thought Briere and Giroux would beat Henrik Lundqvist clean?
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/rangers/all_over_9ZmKokVXGizH5i1tYehObO#ixzz0kvFNZqjR
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