Raleigh, NC – Ryan Callahan's goal 2:55 into overtime sent the New York Rangers into the playoffs and completed a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena.
The Rangers trailed 3-2 with under three minutes to go in regulation before evening the score on Brad Richards' power-play tally, then secured a spot in the postseason for the seventh time in eight seasons after Callahan's transition shot from the left circle got through Hurricanes goaltender Dan Ellis, bounced off the right post and went in.
New York enters Saturday's finale against New Jersey tied with Ottawa and the Islanders for sixth place in the East, though the Senators still have two games remaining.
"It's a great feeling," said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who recorded 18 saves. "It's been a fun year. A little bumpy start, but after that we've been working really hard and even though it's been going up and down for us, especially the last three or four weeks we've stepped up as a group and as a team."
Callahan and Derek Stepan each finished with a goal and an assist for the Rangers, with Carl Hagelin and Michael Del Zotto each contributing two helpers to the win.
Carolina rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit on a pair of Jiri Tlusty goals and one from Tuomo Ruutu. Ellis registered 34 saves in the loss, the 18th in the last 22 outings for the non-playoff-bound Hurricanes.
"I was pleased with the effort, the way the guys played here tonight," Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller remarked. "I thought we did everything we could being short the way we were."
The Rangers were on the verge of a second straight road loss to a Southeast Division also-ran, having dropped a 3-2 decision in Florida on Tuesday, but were given an opportunity when Ruutu was whistled for tripping Stepan with 4:48 left in the third period.
On the resulting man advantage, Richards got off a shot from the left point that landed wide of the net, but inadvertently bounced off Ellis' right skate and went in.
"That (penalty) call at the end, that changed the game," said Muller.
Callahan later converted the only shot of the overtime session, taking a feed from Stepan and skating up the left side before firing off a shot that got under Ellis' left arm and between the post and the net just 2:05 before the game was set to go to a shootout.
"It wasn't pretty, I'll tell you that," said Callahan of the win. "But the character of this team ... we've been fighting all year, we're up and down, and now we're in the playoffs and that's all that matters."
The Hurricanes trailed 2-0 after one period, but struck twice in the second despite being outshot by a 16-4 margin in the frame before going in front on Tlusty's second goal of the game.
Tlusty's first of the night came on a Carolina power play with just under five minutes elapsed in the middle session. With New York's Matt Gilroy in the box for tripping, the Hurricanes forward worked a give-and-go with Jeff Skinner on a 3-on-2 rush that culminated with his second tally of the season.
Three minutes later, Ruutu ripped a riser that sailed over Lundqvist's right shoulder to knot the score after a Rangers' giveaway near the neutral zone.
Carolina defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron kept the game tied by alertly clearing a shot by New York's Hagelin that trickled through Ellis' pads and nearly crossed the goal line less than two minutes prior to the second intermission, and Tlusty struck again just 49 seconds into the third to put his team ahead.
The Rangers started out strong and quickly gained the upper hand, as a counterattack ended with Stepan beating Ellis with a snap shot from the right wing just 3:19 after the initial faceoff.
Derick Brassard made it a 2-0 game with 4:08 remaining before the first intermission, collecting a puck shot wide by Hagelin while stationed to the right of the Carolina net and flicking it into an open side.
Carolina forward Jared Staal, the younger brother of Hurricane centers Eric and Jordan Staal and injured Ranger defenseman Marc Staal, made his NHL debut and started on a line with his two siblings. It marked the fourth time in league history three brothers played together on the same team and the first since Peter, Anton and Marian Stastny did so with Quebec in 1984-85 ... Hurricanes defenseman Jay Harrison did not return after being hit in the face by a shot from New York's Ryan Callahan early in the second period ... Rangers forward Ryane Clowe left the contest in the second period with an undisclosed injury ... Tlusty now has six goals and four assists during a seven-game point streak, while Callahan extended his point streak to six straight and has totaled four goals and five assists during that stretch ... The Rangers topped Carolina for the eighth straight time, with five of those victories coming in Raleigh.