That the Rangers -- and, after a first-period scare, Henrik Lundqvist -- emerged undamaged from Thursday night's game at Madison Square Garden was more important than the Blueshirts' 3-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
With only one game to go before the playoffs begin and with home ice through the playoffs in their back pocket -- the Presidents' Trophy was presented to captain Ryan McDonagh before the game -- the Rangers had little to gain.
The Senators, who moved into a wild-card spot with 97 points and with one game remaining, had far more at stake. An Ottawa loss would have clinched a playoff berth for the idle Islanders.
The Rangers dodged a bullet in the first period, when Lundqvist appeared to suffer an injury. It was the last thing the Rangers wanted to see.
At 13:44 of the first, Lundqvist rolled around in the crease in pain, clutching his left knee after Ottawa's Mika Zibanejad fell on him. Trainer Jim Ramsay came onto the ice and the Garden fell silent. But Lundqvist got up, flexed the knee and skated to the bench before returning.
Said Lundqvist, "My leg was fully extended and he landed right on my knee. It took me a few seconds to make sure it was OK. After a minute or so, I didn't really feel it . . . The first minute, I tried to move it as much as possible. I've had that happen before, pretty painful for a while. But I didn't feel it for the rest of the game. No stiffness, no soreness, anything like that."
Lundqvist (23 saves) showed no effects from the incident in the second period, and with about 11 minutes left in the third, he stopped three shots in a flurry, one without a stick.
Coach Alain Vigneault said Lundqvist will play Saturday.
The Senators took a 2-0 lead late in the second period on goals by Clarke MacArthur and Kyle Turris in a span of 1:04.
The first goal, as MacArthur took Mark Stone's feed from behind the net, snapped a scoreless tie at 17:31. It came right after Kevin Hayes, with a wide-open net on a power play, fired a shot into the prone body of Senators goalie Andrew Hammond (26 saves), who is 19-1-2.
The second goal came when Lundqvist bobbled Turris' net-front deflection of MacArthur's shot, which popped over his shoulder at 18:35. Jean-Gabriel Pageau added an empty-netter.
The Rangers, who were playing without Rick Nash, Marc Staal and Mats Zuccarello, who were nursing bumps and bruises, had only 14 shots through two periods.
Said Dan Girardi: "We were trying to do the right things. We couldn't get a lot of shots or pressure on them. They were clogging the middle. Maybe you'd like to see a little more effort, but there's nothing you can do."
Said McDonagh, "You want to obviously play good out there regardless of what the points mean in the standings. We just didn't put enough pucks on net and didn't keep our guard up all the way through the game.''
The Rangers end the regular season Saturday afternoon against the Capitals in Washington. The Senators, among the potential first-round opponents for the Rangers, finish in Philadelphia at the same time.
Notes & quotes: Nash, who has 42 goals and 69 points and may have had his best all-around season, won the annual team MVP award (in a vote by the New York media) and the Players' Player Award (chosen by his teammates). . . . Nash, Staal and Zuccarello, for the second straight game, were not in uniform. Vigneault insisted they were not resting and described them as day-to-day . . . Forward Ryan Bourque, a third-round pick from 2009, was summoned from Hartford and made his NHL debut . . . Kevin Klein (broken arm) missed his 15th game and won't play Saturday in Washington, but Vigneault said he expects the defenseman to be ready for the first round.