Both the Rangers and Islanders suffered costly losses tonight. Up two after a strong first period up north, the Rangers imploded in a dreadful second giving up five consecutive goals to fall behind 5-2. Though they got two in the third, it wasn't enough to come all the way back as they dropped one to the Canadiens 6-4- snapping their season high five-game win streak.
Meanwhile, the Islanders dropped one at home to the Devils 3-2 in a game they never led. The loss was their second straight and leaves them in dire straits heading into a difficult final six-game stretch which includes games against Buffalo, Ottawa, the Rangers, Leafs, Flyers and Devils. With No.1 goalie Rick DiPietro uncertain due to postconcussion symptoms probably stemming from a dirty play by Ranger pest Sean Avery and then a puck to the mask by Jaromir Jagr Sunday which probably reinjured the netminder, the Fishsticks will need backup Mike Dunham to come up big. They'll also need to score a lot of goals.
Congrats to the Pens on qualifying for their first postseason in six years (five seasons). They fought back from two down to post a 4-3 win at Washington. The win enabled them to keep pace with the Devils, who clinched a playoff spot for the 10th straight season Tuesday night in Long Island. Tied for first with 98 points, the Devs still hold two tiebreakers over the Pens with one extra game left.
For more on the breakdown of the battle for the final three playoff spots, please check out the remaining schedules for the six teams vying at Hitting Back.
There is one game on the schedule Wednesday night which has implications as Carolina visits the Flyers. The Canes find themselves in a three-way tie for ninth with the Leafs and Isles. All three know their work will be cut out for them in trailing eighth by two points and seventh by three. It should be a wild ride to the finish!