Rick Nash scored two goals as the New York Rangers shut out the New Jersey Devils 4-0 and secured the sixth seed in the National Hockey League Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Rangers were assured of keeping sixth spot after the Ottawa Senators lost 2-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers. They will meet the Southeast Division-leading Washington Capitals when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 30.
“If you start out in sixth, you could get home ice depending on what else happens. You never know,” Rangers forward Brad Richards told reporters.
Last year, the Rangers finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and eliminated the Capitals in a seven-game, second-round series before losing to the Devils in the conference finals.
The Rangers (26-18-4) ended the lockout-shortened regular season with 56 points, one point ahead of the New York Islanders and two in front of the Senators, who have a final game today against the Boston Bruins.
“You never know how it’s going to work out in these games, but we wanted to keep on playing,” said Rangers coach John Tortorella in a statement. “We played well, it’s hard for the other team, but we got out of it healthy and win another game. I’m really happy with the past month, five weeks. Now we have to prepare for whoever we play.”
The Rangers posted a 10-3-1 record in the month of April and have recorded a point in 11 of their past 13 home games.
Derek Stepan started the scoring at two minutes, 37 seconds into the game at Madison Square Garden. Ryan Callahan added a shorthanded goal with 59 seconds left in the first period for a 2-0 lead.
Nash added one goal at the end of the second period and another goal five minutes, 30 seconds into the final period.
“We have kind of found our way in the last 10 games, or so,” Stepan said. “Just to come in each night and have a different mindset and reset and focus on the game and the start, that credits the leaders in this locker room.”
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