A night after a feisty matcuhup with the Devils, the Rangers host an even bigger rival in the Islanders at Madison Square Garden for Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN.
As nasty as Tuesday’s contest got at times, this one means more.
While the Rangers seem pretty safely seated as the East’s first wild card, the Islanders stand three points behind the Maple Leafs for the final spot in the conference. They’ve seen other bubble teams stumble, so this is their chance to close in on Toronto in what might be a shrinking field of contenders.
Spiting the Islanders might just give the Rangers a little extra life on back-to-back nights … especially since their fans would probably let them have it if they sleepwalk through this one.
It should be a fun, physical and dramatic one on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.
The Minnesota Wild can breathe a sigh of relief after beating the San Jose Sharks 3-2 on Tuesday, but one would hesitate to use the phrase “back to normal.”
The reason is simple enough: it was kind of a disorienting game, or at least a game defined by a dizzying stretch of scoring … and not a whole lot else.
Matt Dumba‘s 10th goal of the season was a nice one, and it stood alone in the first period. The strange stretch began with David Schlemko making it 1-1 with about two minutes remaining in the second, Martin Hanzal scoring 30 seconds later, Charlie Coyle getting a goal 15 seconds after that … and Patrick Marleau scoring the last goal of the game 15 seconds after Coyle.
Confused? So was just about everyone.
Four goals scored in 1:03.
That would have been a bad time for a bathroom break.
For a Wild team that couldn’t buy a win and a Sharks squad that had scored two goals in their previous three games (all regulation losses), that was a pretty weird sequence of events.
The Sharks turn around with two more road games on this road trip, including a second back-to-back set. They play five of their next six games away from home, so you have to wonder about their Pacific Division lead.
The Wild grab just their third win in March, and with six of their next eight at home (plus their final two games against the Avs and Coyotes), Minnesota has a great chance to finish the season on a high note.
Painful stumbles for Flyers, Lightning and Panthers tonight
We’re not at the point where a bad night will be the final straw for most of the top bubble teams in the East, but Tuesday did give the impression that the field is narrowing down.
As painful as tonight might be for the Boston Bruins, they likely feel a lot better than some squads who were hoping to make gains for the final wild card berth. Let’s go through some of the upsets for teams who couldn’t really afford to stumble.
Coyotes 5, Lightning 3
With the Maple Leafs and Islanders idle, the Bolts had a chance to make up ground against a team that might be best served losing. Instead, Arizona played the spoiler role on Tuesday.
Tampa Bay headed into the third period with a 3-2 lead, yet the Coyotes managed three unanswered goals to upset the Lightning.
Jets 3, Flyers 2
Winnipeg technically isn’t out of it altogether in the West … but their situation really wasn’t that different from the long odds Philly faces. Especially not now.
Hurricanes 4, Panthers 3
Really, Carolina’s chances aren’t that different from those of the Lightning after tonight.
Again, opinions about how many teams actually have a chance to make a run will very with about 10-or-so games remaining in the regular season. Here’s how the final wild card race looks, with the Bruins included just to be thorough.
Third in Atlantic: Bruins – 82 points in 73 games played (lost to Ottawa)
Final wild card spot: Maple Leafs – 81 points in 71 GP
Islanders – 78 points in 71 GP
Lightning – 77 points in 72 GP
Hurricanes – 75 points in 71 GP
Flyers – 74 points in 72 GP
Panthers – 73 points in 72 GP
Sabres – 72 points in 74 GP
Red Wings – 69 points in 72 GP
Devils – 66 points in 72 GP
Yep, tonight’s losses could indeed be costly for the Lightning, Flyers and Panthers.
Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for wild card spot (or worse?)
In the last 48 hours, the Boston Bruins have dropped significant games to two teams their jostling for playoff positioning with in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators. In both instances, they were regulation defeats.
With that, the Senators have a six-point lead over the Bruins for second in the Atlantic with a game in hand. At this point, the Senators are more fixated on catching the Canadiens for first in the division … while there’s a serious risk for Boston to slip into a wild card spot (or even worse).
Check out Toronto breathing down Boston’s neck for the third spot in the Atlantic:
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games played
Maple Leafs: 81 points in 71 GP
Yeah, this three-game losing streak stings for the Bruins, particularly these last two. Then again, it’s been the story of the season in some ways, as Boston’s lost key points against these two rivals:
Tuesday saw some entertaining and violent tussles, whether the teams involved were both desperate or if some were merely driven by pride (or was it spite?).
To kick off a big game for both the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild, Chris Stewart dropped the gloves with Micheal Haley. As you can see from this post’s main image, it’s not their first bout, as Stewart fought Haley as a member of the Anaheim Ducks.
Stewart probably won that fight with his jab-heavy approach.
The New Jersey Devils didn’t have much to gain against the New York Rangers tonight, yet they edged them 3-2 in overtime nonetheless.
Then again, spite can be quite the motivator, and there were multiple moments of violence that made you think that the Devils are well aware of the teams’ rivalry.