On a night that the New York Rangers extra effort award was handed out and more importantly, with playoff aspirations fully controlled by their own performance, the Rangers came out with nothing against the Atlanta Thrashers: it was a game in which any coach would throw the tapes in the garbage and totally forget about it. Only problem is that this one could be hard to forget as it could very well be the game that sends them golfing early this offseason. As a result of their pathetic performance, a 3-0 loss, the Rangers must cross their fingers that the Carolina Hurricanes help them out.
The Thrashers scored twice in a frame of 15 seconds in the second period on some missed defensive assignments and that totally sucked the nervous life out of Madison Square Garden and tensed the team even more. Sure, the Rangers hit a few posts, but they failed a few times on a number of empty nets and could not finish when they desperately needed to. Any chance of another third-period comeback was quashed when Eric Boulton scored just over four minutes in as Marian Gaborik was beat up the ice. He was then benched for the remaining 15:31 of the period. His benching symbolized the Rangers' night: no hunger or life.
The power play was also totally ineffective: 0-for-4 and is now scored just once in its last 27 opportunities. According to Andrew Gross, the Rangers are 5-7-1 against Eastern Conference non-playoff teams since Jan. 20 and are just two games (19-17-4) at home ice.
The magic number between the Hurricanes and Rangers remains three. Carolina has two games remaining: at Atlanta tomorrow night and at home against Tampa Bay Saturday night. The Rangers play the Devils Saturday afternoon. All the Rangers can do now is hope. Both teams have 34 regulation/OT wins. If the Rangers win their final game, and the Hurricanes win both of their games to tie the Rangers in points, the Hurricanes would have the advantage (with one more regulation/OT win). If the Hurricanes win and lose any combination of their final two games -- and the Rangers lose, the Hurricanes would hold the advantage (with one more regulation/OT win).