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Rangers beat Devils for their eighth straight win

Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers celebrates

Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers celebrates his second-period goal against the New Jersey Devils with teammates Martin St. Louis, Derick Brassard and Dan Boyle at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

It took nine tries and almost 40 years, but the red-hot Rangers have won eight straight.

In 1975, President Gerald Ford was in office. "Wheel of Fortune" premiered on NBC. On Jan. 11 of that year, the Rangers posted their eighth consecutive win. And On Saturday night, after the three-day holiday break, they tied that mark.

Center Derek Stepan notched a hat trick -- on a shorthanded breakaway in the first period, a deflection of Martin St. Louis' shot on the power play in the second and an even-strength empty-netter from the red line with 54.6 seconds left -- in a 3-1 victory over the slumping Devils at Madison Square Garden.

"I had some fortunate bounces tonight," said Stepan, who has six goals and 22 points in 21 games since returning from a broken fibula. "I'm not going to complain about it."

On the first goal, when he chased the puck down ice, deked and backhanded it through Cory Schneider's legs at 18:14 to forge a 1-0 lead, Stepan said: "I didn't want to push it quite as far as I did, but lucky there was enough snow on the ice to slow it down."

Right now, nothing is slowing down the Rangers (19-10-4), whose franchise record for consecutive victories is 10.

In front of a stout defense, Henrik Lundqvist, playing in his 600th NHL game, won his seventh straight. He made 19 saves, including several big stops in the third as the Devils tried to rally from a 2-0 deficit.

Steve Bernier scored on an odd-man rush at 10:23 after a failed pinch by defenseman John Moore.

Stepan's opening goal "was a big play" for the Rangers, Lundqvist said. "Special teams won us the game," he said.

With Rick Nash off for holding Jaromir Jagr at 11:23, the Rangers, who were 4-for-4 on the penalty kill, stopped the Devils again as Lundqvist made three huge saves.

Stepan's hat trick was the third of his career and came after Nash had three goals Tuesday night in a 4-2 win over Washington. "I can use him [Stepan] and feel confident in any situation," said coach Alain Vigneault, who believes it took several weeks after rehab for Stepan to regain his form.

The Rangers wanted to play tight against the Devils, who are in a 1-5-3 slide. For the first two periods, they limited the Devils to 22 shot attempts in the first game for the coaching committee of president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, Scott Stevens and Adam Oates, who replaced coach Peter DeBoer.

It ended with another loss. The Devils are 12-18-7 and 11 points out of a playoff spot.

"They had a few chances in the end, there was a big scramble and guys were blocking shots, and I tried to do my part," said Lundqvist, who won his seventh straight start and has a 1.54 GAA and .940 save percentage in that run.

The Rangers head to Dallas on Sunday to begin a two-game road trip that ends in Florida on New Year's Eve.

"We don't want to be satisfied with eight in a row," Dan Girardi said. "We'd like to get both of them for sure."

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