On Tuesday night the Rangers had a chance to stunt the Devils’ playoff hopes. New Jersey had the opportunity to further secure their postseason aspirations by extending their lead over the Florida Panthers in the standings with a win over the Blueshirts, and was successful in that quest. New York, who had nothing to play for other than the possibility of spoiling their cross-river rival’s desires, failed to relish this occasion, and put forth one of their most disappointing efforts since the trade deadline.
The adrenaline of being on the cusp of the Stanley Cup Playoffs propelled the Devils past the Rangers by a score of 5-2 in this one. New Jersey dominated, scoring three goals in the game’s first 11 minutes, going an eye-opening three-for-four on the power-play, and heavily outshooting the Blueshirts 44-24. The Devs’ first three tallies came from Travis Zajac, Taylor Hall, and Will Butcher respectively. Late in opening frame, Ryan Spooner beautifully redirected Jimmy Vesey’s feed past Keith Kinkaid to shrink the deficit to two after the first 20 minutes of action.
New Jersey added to their lead by scoring the middle period’s only two goals. Both Will Butcher and Taylor Hall recorded their second goals of the night, in that order. Both of Butcher’s snipes came on point-shots that found their way into the back of the net. The former Hobey Baker Award winner has continued his impressive rookie season, as he has posted 44 points thus far. As for Hall, his second marker of the evening came on a penalty shot, while his first came off the rebound of a marvelous pad-save by Henrik Lundqvist. Hall, who is perhaps the most deserving NHLer of the prestigious Hart Trophy, has notched a career-high of 93 points, which is 42 more than the next highest scoring Devil, Nico Hischier.
— NHL (@NHL) April 4, 2018
An uneventful final frame concluded with a goal from Kevin Hayes to bring the Blueshirts within three, but that’s as close they would come. Hayes’ 24 goals on the campaign are seven more than his previous career-high of 17. Due to the Panthers’ win, the Devils were unable to clinch a playoff berth last night; however, if the Cats are defeated in one of their three remaining matches, or New Jersey accumulates at least two points over their final two clashes, John Hynes’ squad will reserve themselves a spot in this year’s tournament.
Luckily, the Rangers’ disastrous season features only two more tilts, those coming against arguably their two top Metropolitan Division rivals, the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers. The Isles, who are also playing for nothing besides pride and NHL draft lottery odds, will faceoff against the Blueshirts on Thursday at the Barclays Center (7:00 PM, MSG), while New York’s finale will occur on Saturday in Philly (3:00 PM, NBC). The end of the 2017-2018 term and the start of what should be an eventful offseason can’t come soon enough in Rangerstown.
Brian Paget is on Twitter @BrianPaget17