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rangers

The Rangers’ Magic Number Is Down to Five

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 17: Brad Richards #19 of the New York Rangers shoots on goal against the Colorado Avalanche at Madison Square Garden on March 17, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images) Brad Richards.

So, how 'bout them Islanders? For the second time in three nights, they beat the suddenly not-so-hot Penguins, this time hanging on for a 5-3 victory at Nassau Coliseum. (Josh Bailey had himself quite a night, scoring two goals — including the empty-netter to seal the game — as well as collecting three assists.) As of this morning, the Rangers and Penguins have each played 77 games, and the Rangers' five-point lead over the Pens in the standings means their magic number to guarantee a better finish than Pittsburgh is down to five. (And to be clear, that's five points, which includes any points the Rangers earn over their final five games, as well as any points the Penguins fail to earn.) In fact, the Penguins are now just two points ahead of the fifth-place Flyers, who mathematically could still finish atop the conference standings as well, though they're seven points behind the Rangers with just five games to play. The Rangers next play Montreal at the Garden tonight, while Pittsburgh visits the Sabres, who've won five straight (and could wind up being the first-round opponent for whoever wins the East). The Flyers, meanwhile, are home for Ottawa tomorrow; on Sunday, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia play a matinee at the Consol Energy Center, while the Rangers host the Bruins at 7 p.m.

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Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images