Erik Christensen, who has really raised his level of play since the Olympic break, scored two goals last night, his first opened the scoring 21 seconds into the game. His second came exactly 30 seconds after Vinny Prospal scored a goal to put the Rangers up 2-0. Christensen took Marion Gaborik’s feed and skated in alone on Leaf’s goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who was powerless to stop him.
"He was huge," said teammate Brandon Dubinsky, "He's been putting a lot of pressure on himself lately to find a way to put the puck in the net. A lot of guys have been telling him just relax, it's going to happen, it's going to come, and tonight he got rewarded with all the work he's been putting in leading up to this."
Olli Jokinen, who played one of his best games since coming to New York, gave the Rangers a 4-1 lead in the third period. Just 2:42 after Dion Phaneuf scored his first goal as a Maple Leaf, Marion Gaborik’s shot was blocked but it came right to Jokinen, who overpowered Gustavsson as he scrambled to get into position after the original shot changed directions. Aaron Voros put another nail in the Leafs coffin when he came off the bench and beat Gustavsson less than two minutes after Jokinen’s goal.
"That was as bad a first period as we played all season, simply put," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.
With their season on the line, it all comes down to a home and home series against their bitter divisional rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. Tomorrow night, the two teams will face-off at Madison Square Garden and will finish the season on Sunday afternoon at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. The Rangers will clinch a playoff berth if they can get at least three points over the next two games.
"We wanted to make the Philly games count. And they do know," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "It's within us. But we don't have to look at the board anymore, because it's right in front of us.
For Ranger fans, the playoffs officially begin tomorrow.