In most cases, when you lay an egg on Broadway it’s considered a bad thing. But not when your goalie lays one up on the scoreboard in New York, as was the case Thursday night.
Behind Ondrej Pavelec’s shutout performance, the Atlanta Thrashers played one of it’s best games in many, many moons and beat the New York Rangers 3-0 in a game that was very important to their playoff chances. It was the fourth shutout of the season for Pavelec…the first since blanking the Washington Capitals 1-0 just prior to the All Star break… and the sixth of his career.
Pavelec stopped 29 Ranger shots to drop the goose egg on the ice of Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers, on the other hand, looked like a team playing with their Pucker Factor Meter cranked up to 11. The loss leaves them sitting with 91 and only one game left, Saturday afternoon against the New Jersey Devils.
It also swings the door wide open for the Carolina Hurricanes, who sit just 2 points behind the Rangers but have two games remaining on the schedule. One of those games will be Friday night here in Atlanta. So New York will be looking for the Thrashers to have a repeat performance to help out their cause.
The Canes will close out their regular season Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Theoretically, they could still finish as high as 7th in the Eastern Conference given the Buffalo Sabres have 92 points with 2 remaining.
Buffalo will take on the Philadelphia Flyers Friday and Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday.
So by the time the Thrashers finish their 2010-11 campaign against the Penguins Sunday afternoon, we’ll already know which one of those three teams is left out of the playoff race, and they’ll have had something to say in how two of them faired down the stretch.
However, Atlanta’s 2011 Spring Spoiler Tour will be far from over as Pittsburgh has worked their way back to within one point of the Flyers. The outcome of Sunday’s game here could very well determine who winds up winning the Atlantic Division and possibly the second seed in the east.
Going back to the race lower down between the Canes, Rangers and Sabres, I have to say that of those three the one I would really like to see in the postseason the most in Carolina. If they do beat out the odds and squeak in somehow, it’ll mean the Southeast Division will send a trio of teams to this spring’s Great Hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
But to do so, the Hurricanes will need to depart Thrasherville with a pair of points, something I hope the Thrashers deny them of, or at least make them scrap hard for them. I’m a Thrashers fan first, after all.
Looking forward, if the Canes do indeed find there way in then what I’ll personally be pulling for is a Tampa Bay-Carolina Eastern Finals. Yeah, that’s a long shot given the way teams like Washington, Pittsburgh and Boston are playing…but just think of the wailing and gnashing of teeth that would come from north of the Mason-Dixon line if such a matchup were to happen in a couple of months.
Such a scenario would be made even that much sweeter if a possible Lighting vs. Hurricanes ECF were also combined with on pairing Nashville with, say, Phoenix out west…or Dallas if they were to pull off the miracle finish.