The Rangers can see the finish line, but they aren't slowing down.
They beat the Devils, 6-1, Saturday night at the Garden to earn their 50th win of the season. They are tied with Anaheim at 107 points for the top spot in the NHL and the Presidents' Trophy. With four games left, they have two games in hand on the Ducks. Their magic numbers: four points to clinch the Presidents' Trophy and three to clinch the Eastern Conference title.
After the Rangers scored three times in a 7:14 span of the first period -- chasing Corey Schneider, who stopped only three of six shots -- the outcome was never in doubt.
Wearing a mask with a "Back to the Future" theme, Henrik Lundqvist was in vintage form. Playing in his third straight game, he was tested in bunches, making 13 saves in the first period and 35 overall. Tuomo Ruutu spoiled the shutout bid with 3:30 left, but the goaltender received a standing ovation.
Lundqvist said that if the playoffs were to start tomorrow, he would feel ready. "In the first game when I came back, I was analyzing way too much. Now I feel I'm close to where I need to be," he said. "Didn't know how long it was going to take. It's a lot of fun to see that progress."
Said Ryan McDonagh, "He looks like himself. He's talking like himself. He's carrying himself like he's back to normal. It's a good sign for us for sure."
Rick Nash's career-high 42nd goal gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 5:10 of the first period. Mats Zuccarello curled with the puck on the left side and fired in front, where Nash managed to get a piece of the puck to tip it past Schneider.
It was Nash's third goal in five games.
Keith Yandle, who assisted on Nash's goal, scored on a high wrister from the right point through traffic at 11:59. Dom Moore then scored 25 seconds later. Tanner Glass, coming down the right side on a rush, backhanded a pass to Moore, who outraced the Devils to the crease and beat Schneider.
Keith Kinkaid replaced Schneider and stopped every shot until Nash found Derek Stepan up the middle with Carl Hagelin in the box for tripping. Stepan slowed just slightly on his shorthanded breakaway, deked and slid a backhander between Kinkaid's pads with 2.7 seconds left in the second. It was the Rangers' ninth shorthanded goal of the season.
Derick Brassard pushed the lead to 5-0 at 1:55 of the third when his sharp-angle shot from deep in the left circle banked in off defenseman Adam Larsson's skate. It became 6-0 when McDonagh's blast from the left point flew in off Moore's stick with eight minutes left for Moore's second goal of the game.
"We continued to play with high energy, and in the second and third period, I thought we did a really good job of keeping our focus," Stepan said. "It's really hard to do in these types of games."
It is the fourth time in franchise history that the Rangers have reached 50 wins. The last time was 2011-12 (51).
Nash, the first Ranger to score 42 goals since Marian Gaborik in 2009-10, had a game-high seven shots, an assist on Stepan's goal and numerous smart defensive plays. Thirteen Rangers hit the scoresheet, including four points from the fourth line: Moore's two goals and assists for Glass and Jesper Fast.
Said Stepan: "We're going to need everyone. [Last year] I felt one of our biggest strengths was our depth. We've got to have that again this year."