Your move, Carolina: Rangers pound Devils 5-2, force Carolina to win their way into playoffs

Call it guts, call it manning up when needed, call it the comeback of Chris Drury if you want to but either way the Rangers did what they had to do today. New York’s 5-2 win over New Jersey gave them a shot at making the playoffs and now they’ll have to sweat out tonight’s game between Tampa Bay and Carolina from Raleigh to see if they can make the postseason.

The Rangers didn’t start off today’s game on the right foot getting down just over two minutes into the game when Nick Palmieri tipped home an Ilya Kovalchuk shot to give New Jersey an early 1-0 lead. Moments later, however, the Rangers would get the spark they were looking for out of captain Chris Drury. Drury put home a beautiful backhand goal after a great feed from Erik Christensen to tie the game at one. Drury made his comeback today after being out since February 3 with a knee injury.

The first period would end with the Devils leading 2-1, however, as Ilya Kovalchuk beat Henrik Lundqvist with a shot with 42 seconds left to play. It would be the last tally the Devils would get on the game however as the Rangers blew the game open in the second. Wojtek Wolski, Ryan McDonagh, and Brandon Prust each netted goals in the second while Vinny Prospal added one in the third to provide the 5-2 final score.  For McDonagh, it was his first NHL goal and for Wolski it was his first goal since February 22. If you needed a definition of a “character effort” this game was it for the Rangers.

Henrik Lundqvist finished the game with 24 saves and closed out his regular season with 36 wins. If the Rangers make the playoffs, the Capitals will have their hands full in dealing with King Henrik and his 11 shutouts this season. He’s more than capable of carrying the team and if the Rangers got hot in the postseason he makes for an imposing figure.

They have to get there first though and that means getting a win from Tampa Bay, Rangers coach John Tortorella’s old team, tonight against the Hurricanes. If Carolina pulls off the win, they’re in the playoffs and for the first time ever there won’t be a New York City-area team in the playoffs. Ever since the Devils moved to New Jersey in 1982, one of the Islanders, Rangers, or Devils have made the playoffs to represent the Big Apple in one way or another.

It makes for quite the altered perspective for old time fans as you’d have teams from Nashville, Tampa Bay, North Carolina, Phoenix, and three from California in the playoffs and just two Canadian teams and none from New York in the playoffs. Let that sink in a little bit the next time you pile on about how the non-traditional hockey markets stink.

No pressure though Carolina, the task is simple: Win and you’re in.

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.