On April 10, the Penguins beat the Habs and Carolina lost to the Devils, guaranteeing the Pens a finish no worse than fifth in the NHL's Eastern Conference and a matchup with the Flyers. But they wanted to move up just one more spot.
In order to secure home-ice advantage, the Philadelphia squad needed to get three points against the "Big Apple Bunch," the Islanders and the Rangers.
The Flyers handily beat the Islanders and looked forward to having their next three games at home: the last of the regular season against the Rangers and then two against the Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Philly just needed a win or draw in regulation to lock up fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Only an outright loss would give 4th place to Pittsburgh.
Too bad for the Flyers that John Tortorella decided this game was to be the Rangers' first "postseason" game. Wanting to get his team ready for playing their first two games in Washington, he exhorted his boys to play 60 minutes, and play them hard.
Going into the third period, the Flyers had a 3-2 edge and were playing an excellent game. But the Rangers never gave up and tied the game with a goal by bad boy Sean Avery.
They then took the lead for the first time in the contest with a goal from Blair Betts.
With five minutes to go, Tortorella called a timeout and gave his team instructions on how to protect the lead and get the win (are you taking notes, Boudreau?).
The Flyers threw everything they had at the Rangers but came up empty. The bad blood at the end of the battle might serve to light a fire under the Flyers, but they have to be disappointed with losing the right to host the opening Playoff bouts.
As a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, I want to take this opportunity to thank the New York Rangers. You spoiled the first round for the Philadelphia Flyers, and I hope the psychological effect works to the Pens' advantage.
Now, can I ask you guys for another favor?
Play seven games with the Capitals and bang 'em up good.