It didn't get much press, the Rangers' streak to finish the season turned into an afterthought, after all the Rangers did appear to be locked into 3rd overall in the conference, good for better than the best team the Eastern Conference had to offer. Still, much like in their championship year in 2003, the Rangers waltzed into Plymouth for what was a meaningless game, that would result in an opportunity to end the regular season with 100 points, that time they entered the game with 99 points, only requiring a single-point for an overtime loss, this time the Rangers would have to come home with a victory to achieve the century milestone, something unthought of for this team just 5 months ago, as the Ranger clearly stumbled out of the gate and had trouble controlling their goals against.
For the first time in eight and a half games
the Rangers were with one of their most prominent star forwards Steve Downie
who's 8 game suspension finally ended on the last game of the season.
Downie was in the lineup for one reason and that was to get game ready
for the post-season. Nazem Kadri, perhaps the hottest Ranger, opened
up the scoring taking a terrific feed from Steve Downie and snuck the puck
past netminder Jeremy Smith, who despite nearly sharing the goaltending
duties with Washington Captials' selection Michal Neuvirth has yet to play
a minute against the Rangers thus far in the season. With Charles
Lavinge starting his second striaght game, it was obvious that the Rangers
weren't willing to exposure their starter to the Whalers.
Evan Brophey, the Kitchener native, whom has constantly been a thorn in the Rangers' side since he emerged in the OHL and has stepped up very often in games simply involving the Rangers. Brophey tied the game twice, once in the first period and he beat Charles Lavigne again in the second period while on the power play. In the second Kevin Henderson was set up by Steve Downie, for Downie it was his second point of the night and for Henderson he had a goal in his 5th straight game, and 33 for the season, tripling his career goal total prior to this season. In the third period the already shorthanded Rangers deactivated Steve Downie who got dressed in street clothes, the youthful team got even younger. Head coach Peter DeBoer spent the game sitting in the stands. The Rangers were already playing without the services of: Peter Tsimikalis, Victor Oreskovich, Nick Spaling, Scott Timmins and import defenders: Jakub Kindl and Yannick Weber.
The Whalers got the go-ahead goal in the third
period, by the same player that caused a deficit back in Kitchener on the
power play struck again. Tom Sestito scored his 42nd goal, the final
tally of the season in this matchup. The Rangers allowed a season-high
22 shots during the third period and 42 over the final two periods.
The Rangers also yielded 11 power plays to the 5 they had of their own.
For Lavigne it was a coming out party. While some early whistles
might have detracted from the effort, it was a game where the Rangers on
paper were clearly outclassed and outplayed yet Lavigne was able to keep
his inexperienced squad in contention right until the final buzzer.
The home ice win prevented the Whalers from being swept in the season-series
by the Rangers. The win for the Whalers kept hopes alive of winning
the conference and potentially avoiding a second-round matchup with the
Rangers, but the Knights' also won, clinching their 4th consecutive Hamilton