With just a minute to play, Derek Stepan threw a puck on net, it pin-balled off of Hammond and Kreider was right there to slam it home for a 3-1 lead. At the end of the first, Hammond had given up 3 goals in a period for the first time in his career. In the second, Mats Zuccarello found the net just 1:42 in off a great feed from Kevin Hayes, who in my opinion had an excellent game. Then, with just under four minutes remaining, the impossible happened. Tanner Glass, who had just finished his two minute minor for slashing, came racing out of the box, and buried a Kevin Hayes feed for his first goal of the year. The Rangers bench, including AV, was thrilled for Glass.
There was no scoring in the third period, and when the horn sounded to end the game, the New York Rangers were the first team in the NHL to clinch a playoff birth. The Rangers still have a tough schedule in front of them, as they will play the Bruins, Capitals, Jets, and Wild all within the next week. Although the Rangers are still battling for playoff position and home ice, it is so sweet to so that "X" next to your team's name on NHL.com. The Rangers know that the remaining nine games won't be easy, but they will use this game and their playoff birth as motivation going forward for the rest of the regular season.
This next week is huge for the Rangers, as they are playing teams that are either in or almost in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the Rangers are able to play like they did tonight, I wouldn't be surprised to see them go 4-0 during this next week. After this week is over, they play the Devils twice, the Blue Jackets, the Senators, and then the Capitals to end the regular season. Although the Rangers have some tough games still in front of them, the Rangers have put themselves in a great spot to not only end the regular season in first place in the conference, but also receive the President Trophy at the end of the year. And for all of you who think it's a curse, the last time the Rangers won it, they won the cup that year. Just remember that.