On paper, the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers should have finished Tuesday night in the same place that they started it, aside from having one less game remaining on their schedules.
Instead, it was an awfully tough night for the Penguins and a great one for the Rangers. New York squeezed out a 3-2 win against a persistent but hopeless Minnesota Wild team while Pittsburgh dropped a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders.
Tough times for Pittsburgh
This gives the Rangers a three-point lead in the Atlantic Division (and thus, the first seed in the East), which honestly seems more like a four point gap when you consider the Blueshirts’ tiebreaker advantages.
If that wasn’t enough, Kukla’s Korner points out that Marc-Andre Fleury took an elbow to the head in the second period and Sidney Crosby might just face some heat from Brendan Shanahan for his ill-advised cross-check.
The Penguins aren’t totally out of the No. 1 seed sweepstakes, though. The key date is April 5 when the Penguins host the Rangers at Consol Energy Center. If Pittsburgh wins that game in regulation, it reduces the Rags’ lead to just a point (or essentially two because of tiebreaker advantages).
In a fitting way, the blow to Pittsburgh’s quest for the top seed isn’t all that different from Washington’s diminished opportunity to get the eighth seed. Both teams still have a shot, but now they’ll need to depend upon Buffalo/New York to lose for things to work out.
Here are highlights of the Rangers’ win:This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
Check out video of the Islanders beating the Penguins:This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!