[Note by Jim Schmiedeberg, 04/09/10 10:32 PM EDT Joe Fortunato did the recap for us, but asked me to post it]
[Note by Jim Schmiedeberg, 04/09/10 10:33 PM EDT If you don't get the headline, you will have to read the game threads from last night to understand]
Let me preface this by saying that the game tonight was one of the best games I have ever seen. Definitely top five, but a few playoff games take the cake.
Also, for those of you that even entertained the idea of trading Henrik Lundqvist, or that he wasn't good enough to be the number one starter, please eat heaping slices of humble pie. That pad save he made at the tail end of the game on James van Riemsdyk might have been the best save I have ever seen. This team goes where Lundqvist goes, period. There is no more debate, he is the life that runs through the blood of this team and he proved it tonight. Aside from the beauty he made four or five magnificent saves to keep this a game.
Let's also note, while we're noting, that since the Rangers won this game in regulation it doesn't matter how they win on Sunday. It can be in regulation or overtime, it doesn't matter. Now onto the game.
I missed the first period thanks to a train cancellation, but when I got to the Garden (right in time for the start of the second) I knew the atmosphere was going to be special. The fans knew that the team needed it, but more importantly the team PLAYED like they needed it. The hustle, heart, goals, and play that we have all been demanding was evident through most of the game.
Chris Drury, Jody Shelley, Brandon Dubinsky and Marian Gaborik were the goal scorers. When I got to the game I joked that I didn't know who I was more surprised about hearing score, Drury or Shelly (might be my best comment all year).
In the second period the Rangers got on the board early when Gaborik--who was due for a big game--streaked to the net and dropped the puck off in the crease to his trailer. That trailer, Dubinsky, flew at the puck and roofed it to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead. But the Rangers didn't make it easy on themselves--do they ever?--and soon after Daniel Brier buried a beautiful clapper to cut the Ranger lead to one. Keeping with their newly found momentum the Flyers ran rampant over the Rangers, who were on their heels, and eventually Mike Richards tied the game on a breakaway opportunity.
But Rangers hockey can sometimes be magical, and it was Richards' goal--which one would have expected would have sucked the life from the Rangers--that filled them with life. From that point forward the Rangers started breaking free offensively, they defended bravely, and when needed Lundqvist stood taller than the Empire State Building. And eventually Gaborik streaked in on a semi-breakaway, and his shot deflected into the top corner to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead.
The third period would basically be a culmination of failed power play attempts for both sides, and missed opportunities. The period was highlighted by Brian Boucher flipping the puck into his own post before recovering to make an unreal save against Shelley. Lundqvist would return the favor with his God-like pad stop at the other end minutes later.
The main proprietor of that heart that the Rangers needed to badly was Brandon Prust, who is quickly becoming one of the more vital players on the team. He was all over the ice, throwing hits, getting quality scoring chances, and his forechecking was about as brilliant as it could be; he better be back next year. Also give a stick salute to Brandon Dubinsky who, even in an injury year, notched his 20th goal tonight. Good for him, I've said all along I thought he had more talent than Ryan Callahan and he is rewarding me for it.
The good thing about playing the Flyers is that they always bring out the best in the Rangers. The game was intense, hard hitting, full of magical plays, and filled with hatred. All I can say is that Sunday will be a war, and if the Rangers play then like they did tonight they will be banging the playoff drums in New York.