New York Rangers Late Comeback Against New Jersey Devils Gives Them Spare Life

Doug GausepohlCorrespondent IMarch 27, 2010

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 25:  Chris Drury #23 of the New York Rangers scores the game-tying goal against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on March 25, 2010 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Rangers won 4-3 in a shootout. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Sixteen-and-a-half seconds.

That's how close the Rangers were to losing a 3-2 decision to the rivals across the Hudson River, the New Jersey Devils, on Thursday night.

But more than just the game was on the line that night. 

They were losing any realistic shot of making an extremely late playoff push, with the eighth-seeded Boston Bruins five points ahead of them, plus an extra game in hand for Boston.  

But then one of the more under-achieving Rangers of the past few years, captain Chris Drury, slammed one past Martin Brodeur off a fantastic pass by Erik Christensen behind the net with less than 17 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime, and secure themselves a point.

In the shootout, Erik Christensen would also score the first and only goal of the shootout, in a goal that needed to be reviewed upstairs after it hit about every square inch of the posts before finally touching nylon.

Henrik Lundqvist held down the Rangers' crease for all three Devils' attempts to secure the extra point in New York's favor.

And just like that, the Rangers are alive.

Barely breathing, but alive.  And that's all that matters to the locker room.

"To their credit, everybody's given up on them, and they fought and they fought," coach John Tortorella told the New York Daily News .  "And (Lundqvist) was outstanding, which he's going to have to be if we're going to climb the hill."

The proverbial "hill" that Tortorella was referring to is the space between them and one of the current lower-seeded playoff teams.

The Rangers' eyes may fall on Philadelphia as a No. 1 target to overcome. 

They are currently five points behind Philadelphia (they're only three behind Boston, although Boston has a game in hand), but the Rangers finish the season with a home-and-home series with the Flyers. 

If the Rangers can pull within three points of the Flyers before those final two games, their destiny will be completely in their hands. If the point difference is four, the games will probably not matter.

Even with two wins over Philadelphia and a tie in points, the Flyers would most likely have the greater number of wins (Rangers currently have 33, Flyers have 37).

Not to mention, the Flyers' current No. 1 goalie was their third-string net-minder in October, and they've lost four games in a row. 

The Flyers are slumping, and they're vulnerable.  If the Rangers can make those last two games mean something, that's great news for them.

Win those, you go to Washington (probably).  Lose, you go home.

If the Rangers are going to do it, it's going to have to be on the road. 

Their next five games are on the road, but four of the five are not in the top eight seeds (Toronto, New York Islanders, Florida, and Tampa Bay). 

And to make it even tougher, the Rangers final game of the season is in Philadelphia, which will be an absolutely rocking arena if they know a win could knock the Rangers off the rink for the summer. 

Just as a reference, the Rangers are 17-15-3 on the road. 

In short, the easiest path for the Rangers involves them having to gain at least two points on Philadelphia from now to April 9 (first game against Philadelphia), and then win both games against Philadelphia, the first one at the Garden and the final at Wachovia Center.

That's, unfortunately for the Rangers, the easiest path to the playoffs at this point.

So yes, the scenarios are possible, but not likely.  And yes, the win last night is a huge boost in the efforts of the Blueshirts to somehow squeeze into the second season.

But even after deflating the Devils on Thursday night, the Devils' faithful fans reminded Rangers fans of what's ahead with a chant of, "You need a miracle!"

A miracle is a bit of a stretch.  But they need some more performances like Thursday night, and they need them quickly.

They don't need a miracle, but they do need some breaks.


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