Fifty-one weeks later, 51 weeks after the Rangers' 2009-10 season ended in the ashes of a Game 82 shootout defeat to the Flyers, Henrik Lundqvist did not have to be reminded.

"I had a flashback," said The King.

He had a flashback awaiting this Game 78 skills competition that wouldn't have the same dramatic finality of the one in which Olli Jokinen was infamously snuffed, but would either allow the eighth-place Rangers to keep control of their playoff destiny or yield it to ninth-place Carolina.

"It was not the exact same situation, but I was a little more anxious and a little more nervous going into the shootout than I usually am because of what happened last year," Lundqvist told The Post. "I don't think I could have handled another loss, it would have made me so mad.

"But I felt this was our time to get this one."

It was The King's time, it was the Blueshirts' time, and after Lundqvist stopped both Nik Zherdev and Claude Giroux while both Erik Christensen and Wojtek Wolski beat Sergei Bobrovsky, the Rangers had won a 3-2 game to extend their lead over the Hurricanes to two points and reduce their magic number for clinching to five points, following Carolina's 2-1 overtime loss to the Sabres last night.

The Rangers came into this one vowing to be themselves following a couple of days of meetings in the aftermath of Thursday's 6-2 debacle of a defeat on Long Island, one night after a muffled performance in a 1-0 loss in Buffalo.

And that's just who the Rangers were, Black-and-Blueshirts getting in on the forecheck, diving in front of shots, throwing their bodies around in delivering hits while at the same time having all sorts of difficulty generating sustained pressure or odd-man breaks off the rush. If you're scoring at home, you're probably doing slightly better than the Rangers, who have recorded a total of seven goals (not counting the awarded shootout winner) in going 2-2-2 over their last six games.

"I thought we worked hard and smart in this game," said Lundqvist, who sat out the final 20 minutes at the Coliseum, the only blow he has gotten in 23 consecutive starts since Feb. 11. "We were really on it."