NHL Year in Review: Rangers vs. Flyers for Game of the Year
After 81 games in the 2009-10 NHL season, the regular-season finale between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers held a spot for the winner in the playoffs, while the loser was going home.
Fittingly, both teams came into the contest with 86 points, setting up the playoff-like, Game 7 type of clash and atmosphere. The rivalry between the two Atlantic division teams didn't disappoint, and the game lived up to the playoff berth at stake.
And on that late Sunday afternoon in the middle of April, the Flyers pulled out a thrilling 2-1 shootout victory at home to close out the regular season. The win catapulted them into the playoffs and served as a catalyst to what became a miraculous playoff run for the franchise.
The Rangers set the tone early by scoring off a Jody Shelley deflection, from a Michal Rozsival slapper just 3:27 into the first period. Their netminder, Henrik Lundqvist, was spectacular in goal throughout the game as well. The Swede had won seven of his last nine contests for the Rangers and looked impenetrable. The Rangers seemed to be on their way to a fifth straight playoff appearance.
But the Flyers finally counterpunched, and eventually converted on one of their many power play attempts.
Flyers' defenseman Matt Carle found the back of the net off a Jeff Carter slapper coming 6:54 into the third period. The Flyers garnered momentum, staved off some late runs by the Rangers, and forced a decisive shootout.
With everything on the line, the Flyers eventually pulled through by playing spectacular defense and offset a strong Rangers' forecheck in overtime. During the shootout, Claude Giroux of the Flyers hit the game-winner in the third round before Philadelphia netminder Brian Boucher came up big and stopped Olli Jokinen's following attempt for New York-- sealing a berth into the playoffs for the Flyers.
In the earlier rounds of the shootout, Danny Briere of the Flyers scored in the first round and P.A. Parenteau of the Rangers scored in the second round. Boucher prevented a fourth round with his stop on Jokinen.
Not even Lundqvist's amazing 46-save game for the Rangers was enough. The Flyers won what amounted to be one of the games of the year.
The Flyers amazingly rode momentum from the game all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, where they represented the Eastern Conference before faltering to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Here's hoping that we'll get a similar matchup, with the same stakes, during an 82nd game of the year in 2011.