East update: Rangers squander chance to guarantee playoff berth

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The Eastern Conference playoff race will still carry at least a little more drama after the New York Rangers lost to the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Tuesday.

The Winnipeg Jets lost in regulation to the Washington Capitals earlier, opening the door for the Rangers to lock things up with a win of any kind. The Rangers still have a major advantage to get things done, but it’s not a sure thing.

They also greatly increased their chances of facing the Pittsburgh Penguins instead of the fading winner of the Northeast Division in the first round:

7. Ottawa – 52 points with three games left (19 regulation/OT wins)
8. NY Rangers – 52 points with two games left (20 ROW)
9. Winnipeg – 51 points with one game left (22 ROW)

The Jets hold the league’s first tiebreaker (ROW), which means that the Rangers wouldn’t necessarily guarantee a spot with a single charity point. Two would work, even though it might make John Tortorella reach a new level of unpleasant.

The Senators also lack that ROW advantage over Winnipeg, although they’d have to fall apart in a near-historic way to fail. You never know, though.

Let’s take a look at the closing schedule for the three teams fighting for the final two spots:

Ottawa

Thursday: at Washington
Saturday: Home vs. Philadelphia
Sunday: at Boston

NY Rangers

Thursday: at Carolina
Saturday: at New Jersey

Winnipeg

Thursday: at Montreal

So, basically, this potentially frenetic finish should be a lot of hockey devotees who aren’t Senators, Rangers and Jets fans.