NHL Scores: Rangers Close In On Atlantic Division, Top Seed

Mar 27, 2012; St. Paul, MN, USA; New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) during the third period against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center. The Rangers deafeated the Wild 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

The Rangers had a great day on Tuesday, beating the Wild and watching the Penguins defense collapse against the Islanders.

Tuesday night was a good night for the New York Rangers. They defeated the Minnesota Wild while the Pittsburgh Penguins' defense sans Kris Letang and Matt Niskanen looked like an abject disaster. The Blueshirts now have a three point lead in the Atlantic Division. The Florida Panthers also solidified their grip on the Southeast Division with a win and an atrocious performance by the Washington Capitals.

New York Islanders 5-3 Pittsburgh Penguins

That Pens offense is absolutely unstoppable with Sidney Crosby back in the lineup, but they can't stop anyone to save their lives. Though they beat New Jersey on Sunday, that win was sandwiched between two terrible losses. The Pens have given up 15 goals in their last three games. They managed to lose on Tuesday while taking 54 (!!!) shots. Here's Lighthouse Hockey.

This was a fun game, of course, despite the lopsided shots and hairy bend-don't-break moments making the Isles look much more vulnerable than the final score. But they did what they needed to, and the Pens despite mounting pressure left holes for the Isles to seize.

Hockey is just funny this way. It's not "pressure free" or any such rationale that's attached to March wins but somehow eludes credit for January wins. If anything, the Isles fielded four decent lines and survived one of the most dominant opponents in the league.

New York Rangers 3-2 Minnesota Wild

The Rangers made this one hard on themselves with some dumb penalties that led to power play goals, but Ruslan Fedotenko bailed them out with a third period winner. As Blueshirt Banter points out, Ryan McDonough had a great game for New York in front of a lot of family and friends.

Speaking of Ryan McDonagh, he had a great game tonight, both defensively and offensively. He picked up two assists on the final two goals from the Rangers, and also played solid in the defensive end. He also had 80+ family and friends in attendance tonight, the same as Stu Bickel, and Derek Stepan who were all Minnesota natives.

Florida Panthers 3-2 Montreal Canadiens (SO)

The Panthers now have a five-point gap on the Washington Capitals with a game in hand, meaning they're very close to locking up the Southeast Division and the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They would have liked to win more comfortably against a poor team like Montreal, but two points are two points. Litter Box Cats was happy with the performance of Erik Gudbranson.

Gudbranson gets the nod in this tilt. He was good defensively, played well with the puck, was a physical force, blocked shots, and set an example for the rest of the D on how to play a complete game. His assist on the Samuelsson goal also helped his case, as he led the rush up ice.

Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 Toronto Maple Leafs

That's right, Leafs! You keep mailing it in for the most financially-gouged fanbase in the NHL! It's a Leafs March tradition! Phil Kessel's quotes say it all.

The Maple Leafs' record fell to 33-35-9 after being shut out for the seventh time this season. Four of those have come in the past 10 games.

"The thing is we haven't done anything good really," said forward Phil Kessel. "It's frustrating for all of us. We're all disappointed obviously. We wish we could win games.

"I don't really know what to think."

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