Down 3-0 midway through the second period to the Boston Bruins, after an emotional, hard-fought victory against the Flyers the afternoon before, to an extent, the New York Rangers playoff hopes hung in the balance. They were down and out. They looked tired, a step slow. Essentially, they would have to rely on other teams to lose to put them back into the playoff race.
But if you've watched this Rangers team this season, you know they don't give up. And quit they did not. The resilient heart of this team presented itself during the second period and throughout the third, as the Rangers scored five unanswered goals -- led by the crafty veteran Vinny Prospal -- to defeat the Bruins, 5-3, and put them on the brink of post-season play.
The recipe for the biggest home win of the season certainly wasn't drawn up this way: outshot 19-5 in the first period, and outscored 2-0. Then after finding your legs and forecheck in the second period, give up another goal at 10:32 to make the deficit 3-0. Add in the fact that during the first period your best defender, Marc Staal, looked a step slow and was beat a few times up the ice, and midway through the second period your stud-in-the-making rookie defender, Ryan McDonagh, is a minus-3 and it would've been easy to see understand if a comeback came up short.
John Tortorella then tweaked the lines and defensive pairings, slotting Steve Eminger with Michael Sauer, while forming a Wojtek Wolski-Derek Stepan-Vinny Prospal line he seemingly put out every shift in the third period, and the Rangers turned the almost imopssible, into the biggest statement win of the season.
After seeing limited ice time for practically the entire past month, Wolski looked rejuvenated on a line with Prospal and Stepan. His slap shot midway through the second period rebounded off of Tim Thomas for an easy open-net Prospal goal. With 1:30 left in the period, Wolski then made a behind-the-back pass to Prospal from behind the net, leading to Prospal's second goal of the night and infusing new life into the Rangers going into the third period. The Rangers led in shots, 9-4, during the second period and were destined for a comeback.
The third period was another where the Rangers looked like a totally different team from what they showed in the first period. Even though they didn't score until 16:12 of the period, they stuck with it, drove to the net and pressured the Bruins defenders throughout and their hard work paid off. Brandon Dubinsky knotted the game up at 3, then 51 seconds later, Michael Sauer deposited a shot that trickled over the line to put the Blueshirts up, 4-3. Derek Stepan would score the empty netter to give the Rangers a jaw-dropping come-from-behind victory.
Plain and simple, this was a win that personified this Rangers team in a nutshell. Get beat up, gut it out and stick with the game plan. It makes you a believer.
Even though they are not entirely in the playoffs, this win vaulted them into a tie with Montreal for sixth place, with 91 points. Most importantly, Carolina, which has one game in hand, is now four points behind the Rangers with three games left to play -- compared to two for the Rangers. The magic number for a Rangers playoff berth is three points and this win allowed the Blueshirts to continue to control their own destiny in the hunt for the playoffs.