NEW YORK — Marian Gaborik broke a second-period tie with his 42nd goal and the New York Rangers stayed alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race with a 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night in the first half of a home-and-home series that will determine both teams' postseason prospects.
Gaborik converted Chris Pronger's turnover in the Philadelphia zone into a drive that hit Flyers defenseman Matt Carle and caromed past goalie Brian Boucher to give the Rangers a 4-3 edge with 3:06 left in the second.
Henrik Lundqvist made that stand up, setting up a one-game showdown Sunday in Philadelphia on the final day of the regular season. The Rangers and Flyers, currently in the last playoff spot in the East, are tied with 86 points. Philadelphia owns the tiebreaker.
Both clubs are in a four-team fight — with Boston and Montreal — for the final three places in the Eastern playoffs. Boston and Montreal both have 87 points.
Mike Richards gave the Flyers a 1-0 lead just 40 seconds into the game after a blatant giveaway by defenseman Marc Staal, and added the tying goal in the second. Danny Briere also scored for Philadelphia, 4-7-1 in its last 12.
Chris Drury, Jody Shelley and Brandon Dubinsky had the other goals for the Rangers, who have surged into contention with a 7-1-1 spurt. Shelley, who scored his first goal in over a year, nearly added insurance in the third but was robbed by Boucher's diving stick save.
The desperate Rangers quickly shook off Richards' stunning early goal that sent the pumped-up crowd into nervous silence and dominated the rest of the period.
Not only were the Rangers down 1-0, they also had to kill off a Philadelphia power play when Aaron Voros was caught high-sticking during a faceoff at 59 seconds.
New York got even when Drury scored on the first half of Daniel Carcillo's double high-sticking penalty that turned around the momentum. Erik Christensen, who had two assists, made a beautiful behind-the-back pass to Drury, who was unmarked at the left post for a slam-dunk shot at 7:22 that tied it 1-1.
The Rangers kept the pressure on Boucher and kept the Flyers at bay. New York's unexpectedly productive new fourth line clicked to give the team its first lead.
The trio of enforcer Shelley, Brandon Prust and Artem Anisimov — a line created eight games earlier — has combined for 16 points since coach John Tortorella put them together. Anisimov won a faceoff from Richards, knocking the stick out of the hands of the Flyers captain, and nudged the puck forward. Prust used his backhand to flick the puck to Shelley, who got free in front and scored at 10:13 for his first goal since March 28, 2009 — 62 games earlier.
New York's defense told the rest of the story in the first. Philadelphia, outshot 12-4 in the frame, went more than 17 minutes without a shot between Richard's goal and Arron Asham's drive with 2:02 left in the period.
The Flyers showed more jump early in the second, but Gaborik powered the Rangers' offense as he has done all season and helped New York go ahead 3-1.
Gaborik streaked up the right side, blew past defenseman Matt Carle, and left the puck at the right post to Dubinsky, who easily followed up with his career-best 20th goal.
But before the Rangers could get comfortable with their two-goal lead, Philadelphia get closer 1:28 later. After a pileup that left Rangers defenseman Michal Rozsival on top of Lundqvist, Simon Gagne found Briere open for a one-timer from the slot for his 26th of the season.
Rozsival would play a bigger part in the Flyers' tying goal that left the Madison Square Garden crowd in a panic again.
Pronger blocked P.A. Parenteau's shot up ice and sprung Richards on another breakaway. Rozsival caught Richards from behind and knocked the puck off his stick into Lundqvist, who poked it away. But the puck hit the leg of the driving Rozsival and bounded past Lundqvist to make it 3-3 with 5:19 left in the second.
Gaborik netted the go-ahead goal 2:13 later.
Jeff Carter, who leads the Flyers with 33 goals, returned after missing eight goals due to a broken left foot. … Gaborik, who has a career-high 86 points, also scored 42 goals for Minnesota in the 2007-08 season. … Richards has three goals in two games. … Rangers RW Ryan Callahan, who recently missed four games with a right knee injury, got hurt again in the second period during a hit on Pronger and didn't return.
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