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NY Sports Update January 10th, 2012: Giants defeat Falcons and move on to NFC division playoffs and other sports headlines

LongIsland.com

Giants Defeat Falcons, Advance to NFC Division Playoffs; Rangers Dominant Run Continues; Islanders Drop Back-to-Back Games; Knicks Make It Three Straight

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Giants Defeat Falcons, Advance to NFC Division Playoffs

With a dominant 24-2 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, the New York Giants moved one step closer to the Super Bowl.

New York (10-7) started the game off poorly, with all of their first three possessions ending in punts. On the Giants' fourth possession, Falcons safety James Sanders attempted to tackle Giants quarterback Eli Manning in the end zone. Manning threw the ball off to the side and was penalized for intentional grounding, resulting in the first safety allowed by the Giants in a postseason game since 1991.

As it turned out, the two points from that safety would be Atlanta's only score of the game. Manning and the Giants offense came through with a series of terrific drives, scoring three touchdowns and a field goal. Manning had one of the best games of his postseason career, completing 23 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns.

The Giants' other offensive standout was running back Brandon Jacobs, who set a personal postseason best with 92 rushing yards. It was an encouraging game for an offense that had trouble running the ball during the regular season: Sunday's 172 rushing yards eclipsed the Giants' previous season high by 50.

Meanwhile, the Giants defense shut down the Falcons time after time, refusing to allow a single point. They held Atlanta's potent running game in check, allowing just 64 rushing yards. The Giants defenders also came up big on third and fourth down, stopping 10 of 14 third-down conversion tries and all three fourth-down attempts.

Having defeated the Falcons at home, the Giants will travel to Green Bay next to play the Packers in the NFC Divisional round on Saturday.

Rangers' Dominant Run Continues

With a 3-1 road victory of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers kept their place atop the division, conference and league standings.

The Rangers picked up three goals from three different players, one in each period. Derek Stepan scored his ninth of the season, Brad Richards scored his 15th and Brandon Dubinsky contributed a goal and an assist as the Rangers rolled to their fourth straight win.

The real star of the game, though, was goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. He made 37 saves while allowing just one goal and held firm while the Penguins turned up the pressure in the final period. New York (26-9-4) has now won all of Lundqvist's last six starts.

The Rangers hope to push their winning streak to five as they host the Coyotes on Tuesday.

Islanders Drop Back-to-Back Games

It was a tough weekend for the Islanders, who lost back-to-back games in Anaheim (2-4) and Phoenix (1-5) Friday and Saturday night.

Friday's loss was particularly jarring for the Islanders (14-19-6), who led 2-1 at 6:20 in the third period. It was all Anaheim the rest of the way, though, as the Ducks answered with three goals to bring home the 4-2 victory.

Saturday's game likewise started off reasonably well, as the Islanders and Coyotes entered the second period tied 1-1. The game got out of hand quickly thanks to three Phoenix goals in the second period and one more in the third. The Coyotes' five goals included Shane Doan's first career hat trick.

The reeling Islanders will return to Long Island for a four-game home stand, beginning with the Red Wings on Tuesday.

Knicks Make It Three Straight

The Knicks started their season 2-4, ending that stretch with a loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. Three games later, they sit at 5-4 thanks to a win over those same Bobcats.

After struggling out of the gate, the Knicks started their winning streak with a 99-96 win over the Washington Wizards Friday night. Though the Wizards were and remain the NBA's only winless team, the Knicks had to fight hard for their victory. Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 37 points, including the game-winning three-pointer.

The Knicks easily defeated the Pistons, 103-80, in Detroit before returning to Madison Square Garden to host the Bobcats. In Monday night's game, New York took the lead early, holding a 50-45 lead entering halftime and a 72-65 lead entering the final quarter. They held off a late rally by Charlotte to secure the win.

Hoping to extend that winning streak, the Knicks will host Philadelphia Wednesday night before embarking on a two-game road trip.