Matt Cullen banged in a shot off the crossbar and helped bounce the New York Rangers into the second round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
Cullen fired a rolling puck from just inside the blue line that smacked the iron and dropped on its side just over the goal line 2:06 into the third period Wednesday night. It withstood a lengthy video review and snapped a tie, and Rangers completed a four-game sweep of the Atlanta Thrashers with a 4-2 victory in New York.
New York, which earned its first home playoff victory since 1997 a night earlier, won a postseason series for the first time since that year. It was the Rangers’ first sweep since the opening round of the 1994 playoffs – the year the Rangers last won the Stanley Cup – and quickly ended the Thrashers’ initial venture into the postseason.
Michal Rozsival and Brendan Shanahan wiped out one-goal advantages and put Cullen in position for the game-winner. Jaromir Jagr sealed the victory with an empty-net goal with 1:33 remaining.
Sabres 4, Islanders 2: At Uniondale, N.Y., Chris Drury scored twice and Ryan Miller made 24 saves to help Buffalo beat New York, giving the top-seeded Sabres a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.
Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville also scored for Buffalo, in position to end the series Friday night in Buffalo.
Sharks 3, Predators 2: At San Jose, Calif., Milan Michalek scored two goals, Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves and the Sharks took a commanding lead in their series with a victory over Nashville.
San Jose went up 3-1 in the series with Game 5 on Friday night in Nashville, Tenn.
Devils 4, Lightning 3 (OT): At Tampa, Fla., Zach Parise scored his fifth and sixth goals of the series and Scott Gomez blocked a shot then chased down the loose puck and skated in to blow the winner past goalie Johan Holmqvist with 7:06 left in the extra period to give New Jersey a victory over Tampa Bay and tie the Eastern Conference series at two games apiece.
Game 5 is Friday at New Jersey.
Around the league
Anaheim Ducks forward Brad May was suspended for three games for punching Minnesota Wild defenseman Kim Johnsson in the back of the head in Game 4 of their first-round series. … The Columbus Blue Jackets would not confirm reports that they have fired president-general manager Doug MacLean. The Canadian Press cited an anonymous source as saying the 53-year-old MacLean had been fired. He is the only president-GM the team has had.
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