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Rangers tighten grip on playoff berth

THE New York Rangers strengthened their playoff position at the expense of the Minnesota Wild with a hard fought 2-1 home victory on Tuesday.

The Rangers (39-27-8) took advantage of Scott Gomez's tie-breaking second-period goal to pull level with the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Nikolai Zherdev scored New York's other goal.

"Every single game now is a pressure game with playoff atmosphere and it was huge to bounce back from that 2-1 loss to Ottawa (on Sunday)," defenseman Paul Mara said.

"Hopefully this will get us back on a roll here."

Marian Gaborik scored for Minnesota (34-31-8), which remains outside the top eight positions needed to make the Western Conference playoffs.

With nine games remaining in the regular season, the Wild have fallen to 11th in the West on 76 points after Anaheim beat host Nashville 2-1 in a shootout. The Ducks and the Predators share eighth place with 78 points.

St Louis is a point back in 10th.

Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist gained the win with 18 saves, including two key stops in the final two minutes. Losing keeper Niklas Backstrom had 28 saves.

"They didn't have a lot of shots but they did have some really good scoring chances," Lundqvist said.

"It was kind of tough to stay sharp but I kept telling myself to stay focused because sooner or later you know they will get a big chance."

Zherdev gave New York a 1-0 lead with 4.4 seconds remaining in the first period, pouncing on a rebound from Wade Redden's saved slap shot to notch his 22nd goal of the season.

Gaborik's tying goal came 1:31 into the second when a shot by Marek Zidlicky deflected off the Wild winger into the net.

Less than a minute later, New York regained the lead when Gomez blasted the puck into the net off a Sean Avery pass following a move that was started by Zherdev.

"That's a tough team to play against and it's a grind playing them," Rangers coach John Tortorella added.

"What I liked about our game is that we didn't lose our patience. We didn't blow ourselves up in trying to do too much in that neutral zone. And we scored two, they scored one."

In Nashville, Tennessee, Teemu Selanne scored the only shootout goal as the Anaheim Ducks beat Nashville 2-1 to move into a tie with the Predators for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.

Elsewhere, it was: Red Wings 3, Oilers 2; Maple Leafs 3, Capitals 2, SO; Canucks 5, Stars 2; Canadiens 6, Thrashers 3; Lightning 2, Blue Jackets 1; Blues 2, Kings 0.


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