- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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At a glance: The Rangers pounced on the Flyers with a four-goal first period and held on during a white-knuckled, penalty-riddled third to clinch the Eastern Conference title with a 5-3 win in Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
After letting a clinching opportunity slip away in Sunday's loss to the Bruins, the Rangers responded by beating their Atlantic Division foes and completing the series sweep against Philly. Although Philly rallied in the third to cut the Rangers' lead to two goals, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was sensational in his 10th consecutive start, making 37 saves as the Rangers' power play delivered three goals to propel the Rangers past the Flyers. The 51-22-7 Blueshirts head into the last two games of the season with the No. 1 seed locked down for the playoffs; they travel to Pittsburgh on Thursday before returning home Saturday to host the Capitals.
Potent play: The Rangers tallied two power-play goals within 36 seconds during the final two minutes of the first period and added another in the second, yet another indication that the team’s struggling unit is starting to improve. After Artem Anisimov’s slick move to beat Ilya Bryzgalov at 18:02, the Rangers were awarded a 5-on-3 because of two Flyers penalties on the scoring play. Captain Ryan Callahan put one away for his 29th of the season; it was the third game in the past four that the Rangers have recorded two man-up goals. With Philadelphia’s Max Talbot in the box late in the second, Marian Gaborik notched his 41st of the season for the team’s third power-play goal of the game.
The team also improved to a staggering 25-1-4 in games during which they have at least one power-play goal. New York is 8-for-24 with the man-advantage against the Flyers this season.
Big save: All Wayne Simmonds could do was shake his head after being denied at the doorstep by Lundqvist. Lundqvist made one of his best saves of the season, snagging Simmonds’ point-blank power-play attempt with a lightning-quick stab of his glove in the first period. Simmonds got a goal later in the night, however, when he tapped in a rebound at the right post after another spectacular Lundqvist save.
Chipping in on D: The Rangers got some help from their back end as defenseman Ryan McDonagh tallied his seventh goal of the season and first in 25 games early in the first. Gaborik back-handed a pass to find McDonagh in front for a 1-0 lead at 6:25.
Up Next: Rangers at Penguins, Thursday at 7 p.m.
37dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald