In the final day of the NHL’s regular season, there were numerous games with big playoff implications.
The Kings, who started the day in the seventh slot in the playoff rankings (right behind Nashville), were down early but ended up coming back and winning in overtime by a score of 2-1.
In a battle for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers traveled to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers. It was the classic do-or-die game, and boy did it live up to its billing.
After a late goal by the Flyers tied the game up at one, both teams were set to fight for their playoff lives in overtime. However, nobody scored in the extra session, leading to a shootout to decide which team would advance to the playoffs and which team would go home.
In the end, the Flyers prevailed by scoring two goals against the superb Henrik Lundvquist. The Flyers will play the second seeded New Jersey Devils, while the talented Rangers are left wondering what could have been.
While both teams were already firmly in the playoffs, it was a game which would decide the seedings. If the Blackhawks won, they would surpass the San Jose Sharks, win the Western Conference, and become the top seed.
If the Red Wings won things would be a little more complicated. Since the Kings-Avalanche game finished first, Detroit knew they could only win to achieve that fifth seed as the Kings had actually jumped them in the standings in real time.
Needless to say, the Wings and Blackhawks took a 2-2 tie into overtime, giving each team one point automatically. The winged wheels struck last, though, as Henrik Zetterberg set up a beautiful pass to Dan Cleary which ended up on the stick of Brad Stuart. The big defenseman shot the puck into the empty net and confirmed a trip to the desert to play the Phoenix Coyotes.
Sometimes the 82nd game of the hockey season is meaningless, as is the 162nd game for many baseball teams. The NHL must be happy with what transpired this year, though. Thrilling games, tense finishes. It was a great way for the regular season to go out.
And the wonderful part is that we still have the entire playoffs to look forward to, and the NHL playoffs are arguably the most bruising and intense postseason of any professional sport.
Look for my Red Wings-Coyotes preview coming within the next day or two.