Flyers top Rangers 2-1 and head to playoffs
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Brian Boucher(notes) couldn’t make the stops. He opened his arms wide as a blue line and let all the Flyers in. Danny Briere(notes) was first with the celebratory hug. Claude Giroux(notes) joined the mob that swarmed Boucher.
The Flyers needed three periods, overtime, and a thrilling shootout in the 82nd game to make the playoffs.
Might as well go wild.
“I think everybody on the bench was thinking about that last shot that he stopped,” Briere said. “That was a big rush for us on the bench. I can’t imagine what it was for him.”
The final game of the regular season felt more like Game 7 of a playoff series. Win and advance; lose and go home.
The Rangers and Flyers felt 65 minutes of pressure in a game with postseason atmosphere, starting with the scalpers hawking tickets up and down the streets into the Wachovia Center.
“Hopefully we can do something with our lifeline here and use the excitement and euphoria from this win and from our last little stretch of games here to propel us and do good things here in the playoffs,” defenseman Chris Pronger(notes) said.
The Flyers earned the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and will play New Jersey.
The Rangers forced what was essentially a one-game playoff when they beat the Flyers on Friday night. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist(notes) was sensational, but Matt Carle(notes) tied the game at 1 early in the third period.
Lundqvist was stellar in goal, stopping 46 shots from every angle. The Flyers outshot the Rangers by almost a 2-1 margin, but could never slip the puck past the goalie coach John Tortorella expected to carry them into the postseason.
“If it wasn’t for that goaltender, I think we would have won this game pretty handily,” Boucher said.
Shelley struck again and quieted a rowdy crowd when he scored only 3:27 into Sunday’s game. He deflected a shot from the point past a stunned Boucher—who led the Flyers to the 2000 Eastern Conference finals then bounced around the league—for a 1-0 lead.
That’s the way it stood—and felt like it would stand.
“Terrific, just terrific,” Tortorella said of Lundqvist.
Lundqvist didn’t have the words, other than saying, “it’s really hard.”
He was at his best in front of a hostile and loud crowd.
They roared when Lauren Hart, the daughter of longtime former Flyers broadcaster Gene Hart, sang “God Bless America,” alternating lyrics with Kate Smith, who was on a video image. Smith’s rendition of the song has been a rallying anthem for the Flyers since the mid 1970s.
The Flyers ended a pregame video with a simple message: “Today We Clinch!”
They made the orange-and-black faithful wait until the last shot.
“Hey, it’s entertainment, what it’s supposed to be,” Pronger said. “We’re just trying to give the fans what they wanted.”
Lundqvist made the 1-0 lead stand until early in the third. Briere’s shot from the circle bounced off the goalie and Jeff Carter(notes) poked the rebound to Matt Carle for his sixth goal of the season and a 1-1 score.
The Flyers were pegged as preseason Stanley Cup favorites until a series of injuries in goal nearly cost them the postseason. Coach Peter Laviolette couldn’t turn them into consistent winners once he took over for the fired John Stevens in December. They all get a chance to put a frustrating regular season behind them now.
As good as Lundqvist was, he came up a couple stops short in the shootout.
Giroux scored to set up Jokinen’s final attempt. Jokinen—who was 5 for 9 this season in shootouts—deked Boucher and finished with a backhand that softly bounced off the goalie’s pad.
The Rangers head home after a strong run to end the season. Their three-week run wasn’t enough and they’ll miss the postseason for the first time since the 2003-04 season.
NOTES: Pronger was selected team MVP and most outstanding defenseman. Defenseman Carle was most improved and Ian Laperriere(notes) was voted the Flyer who best illustrates character, dignity and respect for the sport both on and off the ice. Laperriere also won the Gene Hart Memorial Award, given to the player who demonstrated the most “heart” this season.