New York Rangers clinch playoff berth 2024
(Screenshot/ New York Rangers)

In a wild, back-and-forth game that had all the intensity of the playoffs, the New York Rangers became the first NHL team to clinch a postseason berth this season with a thrilling 6-5 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Adam Fox played the hero, scoring just 36 seconds into the extra frame to send the Rangers to the playoffs for the third consecutive year. The goal capped off a frenetic third period that saw the teams combine for seven goals, with the lead changing hands multiple times.

“It’s huge,” Fox said of clinching a playoff spot. “It’s what you plan to do at the start of the year. I think that’s the first step for us. Ten games here to keep sharp and keep our foot on the gas. We want to keep racking up points and get our game ready for playoffs.”

The Rangers, who sit atop the Metropolitan Division with 100 points, had already secured their playoff berth before Fox’s winner thanks to earning a point by reaching overtime and the Detroit Red Wings losing to the Washington Capitals in OT. But New York wasn’t just content to go back into the postseason.

Alexis Lafrenière led the way with two goals in the third period, twice giving the Rangers the lead. Vincent Trocheck, Mika Zibanejad, and Jonny Brodzinski also scored for New York, who extended their division lead over the Carolina Hurricanes to three points.

“Based on the season we’ve had there’s probably an assumption or expectation that at some point you’re going to get in [to the playoffs] so it’s not about that anymore,” Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said. “It’s about playing the right way, feeling good about your game as you get near the playoffs, approach the playoffs, and then you’d like to keep it consistent in the playoffs.”

The game was a potential preview of a first-round matchup, as the Flyers currently hold the third spot in the Metro. Philadelphia has given New York all it can handle this season, with two of the three meetings being decided by one goal.

“They’re a tough team to play against,” said Rangers coach Peter Laviolette, who earned his 800th career win. “If we do end up seeing them in the playoffs, we know it’s going to be a battle. But our guys have answered the bell all year.”

This will be the 63rd playoff appearance in franchise history for the Rangers, who have won the Stanley Cup four times, most recently in 1994. They reached the Eastern Conference Final in 2022 before falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

As the standings sit now, the Rangers could face the Lightning, New York Islanders, or Washington Capitals in the first round. But with over two weeks left in the regular season, much can still change.

The Rangers have six games remaining, including three against teams currently in playoff position – the Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and Vegas Golden Knights. With the playoffs clinched, Laviolette said the focus is now on fine-tuning their game.

“We want to keep racking up points and get our game ready for playoffs,” Fox said. “We’ll definitely enjoy this tonight, but tomorrow it’s back to work. We’ve accomplished one goal by making the playoffs, but now we’re chasing the bigger one.”