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Game Recap: Lose and You're In — Red Wings 2, Rangers 3

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Detroit backs its way into the playoffs thanks to Ottawa.

Both Datsyuk and Sheahan are pretty hyped about playing some more games.
Both Datsyuk and Sheahan are pretty hyped about playing some more games.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The game has yet to go final, but as of my writing this sentence, the Ottawa Senators lead the Boston Bruins 6-1 with under five minutes to play in the game. I'm going to declare it safe to assume that Boston will lose that game and the Detroit Red Wings will clinch the third seed in the Atlantic Division, backing their way into the playoffs after dropping a matinee affair at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

First period

The game seemed to start off just fine for the Red Wings, as absurd as the following sequence may sound. Despite all the hand-wringing over calling up Joakim Andersson and inserting him into the lineup over a healthy Tomas Jurco, a healthy Anthony Mantha, and a healthy Teemu Pulkkinen, he almost justified his inclusion early. A 2-on-1 between Andersson and Luke Glendening — of all combinations — resulted in a puck in the Rangers net and a 1-0 Detroit lead.

So we thought.

Despite the Rangers apparently punting this game, Alain Vigneault still seemed to care enough to challenge the goal. Upon further review, we were all reminded of Andersson's stupendous skating stride, which pulled his right foot off the ice and made him offside on the play directly leading to the goal. So back to a 0-0 game we went, along with the frustration of dressing Joakim Andersson in a basically do-or-die game.

The Red Wings threatened a few times in the rest of the first period, but didn't put any goals up. Marc Staal took a high-sticking penalty, but the ensuing power play ended because of a Henrik Zetterberg hold. On the 4-on-4, Gustav Nyquist carried the puck below the Rangers' goal line and lost the handle when he tried to go around. Niklas Kronwall inexplicably stepped up, and Dan Boyle led the 2-on-1 the other way and finished it for a 1-0 New York lead, which the Rangers took into the intermission.

Second period

Despite a rough start to the game, the Red Wings started the second period with plenty of urgency. They eventually drew a penalty on Rick Nash who tripped Pavel Datsyuk. On the ensuing power play, Datsyuk got the puck at the left point and fired a shot that went off Riley Sheahan's arm and into the net to tie the game 1-1.

Later in the period, Eric Staal got hurt and did not return after colliding with teammate Jesper Fast. Staal was down on the ice for quite a while, so here's to hoping everything will be OK with him after the collision that wasn't too dissimilar to what hurt P.K. Subban.

Despite some chances from both teams, the game stayed deadlocked at 1-1. Jimmy Howard and Antti Raanta came to play in this one.

Third period

Raanta definitely came up huge for New York at the beginning of the third, shutting the Red Wings down despite some glorious scoring chances. The third period zoomed by as the two teams went for about an eight-minute stretch without a whistle.

Unfortunately for Detroit, that nonstop sequence didn't end happily. Oscar Lindberg got the puck deep in the Red Wings zone and rimmed the puck around the boards to Dylan McIlrath. Head up, McIlrath fired the puck toward the Detroit net, and Kevin Hayes re-directed the shot between Howard's legs for a 2-1 Rangers lead.

Season potentially on the line, Jeff Blashill opted to pull Howard very early to try to get the tying goal. The only problem is that Howard didn't quite realize New York had the puck and was headed the other direction. Lindberg potted the empty-netter and appeared to salt the game away when he put the Rangers up 3-1.

If there's one theme to this season, however, it's been that "so you're saying there's a chance?" goal at the end of games. With about 90 seconds remaining, Brad Richards kept a play alive at the center point and took a shot. Justin Abdelkader deflected it past Raanta for the second goal and a hilarious chance to come back and actually win the game.

Detroit had their chances to tie the game. New York took two penalties late that would have given the Red Wings a 6-on-3 advantage with Howard pulled. Detroit won the faceoff to being the "three-man advantage," but Abdelkader fired a blind pass between the point men that killed any chance the Red Wings had of tying this game up. Rangers win 3-2.

Red Wings Player of the Game: Joakim Andersson because, as Jeff noted off-site, "His defense proved to be just what we needed in a 3-2 loss." (No, of course not, it's Jimmy Howard.)

Stray Feathers

  • The Red Wings played a good second period, and that was about it. This game wasn't a case of a team "not showing up" in a very important game. The Red Wings were nervous, and it showed. The puck bouncing everywhere for most of the game didn't help, but this team made too many physical mistakes, showed too much indecision, and didn't make many good plays to get scoring chances.
  • Jimmy Howard has earned the start in Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. And yes, we are now officially in as the Boston-Ottawa game is over, and the Senators won. Send your thank you cards and gift baskets now, and make sure you have international stamps.

It's a rematch of last year's division semifinal. I'll be honest: I'm sour about this game and about backing into the playoffs. I'll get over it, and I'll be right here cheering when the puck drops on Game 1. This is the second season, so as trying as it has been for 82 games, those no longer matter. Tampa Bay is wounded, so Detroit will have another chance to take advantage of an opponent that's shorthanded. They fell short of that task today, but it doesn't matter.

We're in, baby.