Reduced to playing spoiler for the first time since 2004, the New York Rangers can’t deny it’d be sweet to at least inconvenience a hated rival’s quest for the playoffs.
The Rangers have a huge chance to do so this evening, as they take on the New Jersey Devils for the final time this season at Prudential Center (7:00 PM, MSG).
New York (34-36-9) recently doomed another division foe to an elimination fate, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 on Saturday night. Henrik Lundqvist returned to net, making 40 saves in the win, while Ryan Sproul scored the first goal of his Rangers career early in the second period. Later in the frame, Kevin Hayes scored a shorthanded goal, the de facto game winner, to close New York scoring for the night.
Meanwhile, the Devils (42-28-9) control their own destiny when it comes to the Eastern Conference playoffs. Currently five points ahead of the Florida Panthers for the final conference playoff spot with three games remaining (though Florida has a game in hand), the Devils need a win and a Florida loss of any kind to clinch their first postseason berth since 2012. They’re 5-0-1 in their past six, defeating the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on Sunday night. Down 1-0 after the first period, Nico Hischier scored in the first minute of the second before a shorthanded score by Taylor Hall gave the Devils the margin they needed.
The Rangers will seek to create a split in the season set with the Devils, though the last loss was a 4-3 decision solved by shootout on December 21. Hayes and Jimmy Vesey each had goals for the Rangers, but it was an ex-Ranger who played hero, as Brian Boyle tied the game with a power play goal in the third period. In the shootout, Boyle came up big again, scoring the deciding goal has the Devils took home the extra point.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490