It’s very possible that, two weeks from now, the Rangers will still be outside of the playoff picture and last night’s game will prove little more than a footnote on a disappointing season. But if they somehow go on a probably-too-late run, and if Boston gives them some help, and if Atlanta helps them out a little, too, we’ll look at the ending of last night’s game as the moment they gave themselves one last shot.
Late in the third period, we got a glimpse of those late-game Chris Drury heroics we’ve heard so much about, when — down a goal with 23.8 seconds remaining — Drury won a face-off back to Michael Del Zotto, who sent the puck behind the net to Erik Christensen, who snuck a behind-the-back pass into the crease where Drury was waiting to squeeze the puck past Martin Brodeur. Zero points had suddenly turned into one, and when Christensen (a 26-year-old journeyman, if such a thing is in fact exists) scored the lone goal of the shootout shortly thereafter, one point had improbably turned into two.
Boston lost last night, and Atlanta earned just one point in an overtime defeat, which means the Rangers climbed to within three points of the Bruins, and to within one point of the Thrashers. (That loss in Boston on Sunday looms larger than ever now.) Winning the eighth seed is still an awfully tall order, and as exciting as a rout of the Islanders and a comeback against the Devils might be, all it gets them is back to within hoping distance. But it’s hard to watch John Tortorella pump his fist on the bench, like he did after the Drury goal, and not think that maybe these games still matter, at least a little.