Rangers become 1st NHL team to clinch playoff berth, beat Flyers 6-5 on Fox's quick goal in OT

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New York Rangers players gather on the ice after Adam Fox's overtime goal against the Philadelphia Flyers in an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 26, 2024 in New York. (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)

NEW YORK – Adam Fox scored 36 seconds into overtime and the New York Rangers became the first NHL team to clinch a playoff spot this season, beating the Philadelphia Flyers 6-5 following a wild third period Tuesday night.

Alexis Lafreniere had two goals and Igor Shesterkin made 36 saves for the Rangers, who lead the league with 100 points after giving coach Peter Laviolette his 800th career win.

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New York technically secured its third consecutive playoff berth just by getting to overtime and earning one point after Detroit lost to Washington in OT. But after the teams traded seven goals in a frenetic third period, it didn't take long for Fox to finish the night in style with a pinpoint wrist shot from the high slot for his 15th goal, adding to the star defenseman's career high.

“For us to stay as consistent as we have says a lot about our group,’’ said Fox, who has points in eight straight games. "It’s big for us to clinch that playoff spot. It’s just the first step.”

Vincent Trocheck, Mika Zibanejad and Jonny Brodzinski also scored for the Rangers, who extended their Metropolitan Division lead to three points over Carolina, which lost 4-1 at Pittsburgh. Trocheck also had two assists.

“I thought we battled hard. We knew this would be a tough game,'' Zibanejad said. "I thought we got better as the game went on. We kept fighting.”

Scott Laughton and Ryan Poehling scored second-period goals to put the Flyers up 2-0 before Zibanejad narrowed the deficit with his 100th career power-play goal at 15:28.

Brodzinski and Lafreniere scored early in the third to put New York ahead 3-2 before Travis Konecny tied it 3-all with his team-leading 31st goal at 6:45.

Trocheck scored short-handed at 9:34 off a sweet pass from Zibanejad to put the Rangers ahead 4-3, but Owen Tippett tied it again at 11:45 before Lafreniere scored his second of the game and 22nd of the season at 13:59. Flyers forward Tyson Foerster then evened the score yet again at 16:29 with his 19th goal to send the game into overtime.

“I liked the game for the most part. I thought we played very well,'' Laughton said. ”I thought we were in control of it and should have gotten two points. We're in this game to win and we didn't get on the right side of it tonight."

New York won its third straight game and fifth in six overall to improve to 26-9-0 at home. The team is 17-1-1 when Lafreniere, the top pick in the 2020 draft, scores a goal.

“We found a way to win, that's all that matters,'' Lafreniere said. ”There's still a lot of work to do and we know that. We have a lot of hockey to play still. We have to stay focused."

Artemi Panarin’s assist on Zibanejad’s goal was his 100th point of the season, making him the seventh player in Rangers history — and first since Jaromir Jagr in 2005-06 — to reach the milestone. Panarin, who added two more assists, has points in 57 of New York’s 72 games this season.

"He’s an unbelievable player,’’ Zibanejad said of Panarin, his teammate for five seasons. “I’m super happy for him.”

Third-place Philadelphia has nine games remaining and will play five of its last seven against division opponents, including the Rangers again in New York on April 11.

“I feel like we did a good job grabbing a point tonight,'' said Flyers goalie Samuel Ersson, who is 21-14-7 in his rookie season. ”Great attribute to have as a team, to never give up. I think we showed that tonight."

Rangers defenseman Brandon Scanlin made his NHL debut in place of injured Erik Gustafsson.

New York captain Jacob Trouba has missed 10 straight games with a lower-body injury, while fellow defenseman Ryan Lindgren missed his fourth in a row with a lower-body injury. Rangers center Alex Wennberg, whose wife is pregnant, was a late scratch for personal reasons and was replaced by Brodzinski.

“What I liked was the fight in our guys,'' said the 59-year-old Laviolette, who is the seventh coach in NHL history to reach 800 wins and is in his first season coaching the Rangers. ”I like the fact that we were resilient."


Rangers: Visit the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday.

Flyers: Visit the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.


AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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