The Rangers did what they needed to do against New Jersey, taking the maximum eight points from four straight games against a stripped-down Devils club that became the youngest team in the NHL after selling off much of the heart and soul of the team at the trade deadline.
The Rangers certainly wouldn’t get style points for the way they won the last two games — taking big early leads, then taking their foot off the gas and being forced to sweat late in the third period before pulling it out at the end. But with time running out in a playoff race, the bottom line is all that matters.
"We still have to take care of business,’’ said Mika Zibanejad, who scored the winning power-play goal in Sunday’s 5-3 victory in Newark. "We tried to just settle down when they scored the tying goal and we had a great opportunity on the power play late in the game. And we converted, got away with two points, and again, that’s all we care about right now: taking care of business and making sure that we win hockey games.’’
Artemi Panarin, who was troubled by the Rangers’ performance in Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Devils, spoke of the Blueshirts needing to "approach the next few games very seriously.’’ The Rangers (23-16-6) have 11 games remaining and trail the Boston Bruins (25-12-6) in the playoff race by four points. Boston has two games in hand.
The Rangers will play the Bruins in the final two games of the regular season, May 6 and 8 in Boston. In order for those games to mean anything, the Rangers are going to have to keep winning, beginning with Tuesday’s game at Nassau Coliseum against the Islanders.
Four straight wins over the Devils, as it turned out, did no more than allow the Rangers to keep pace with the Bruins, who also have won four straight. And Boston’s next three games are against the last-place Buffalo Sabres.
But the Sabres are playing well, and as Rangers coach David Quinn kept saying during the series against New Jersey, the Devils and Sabres are going to be a problem for teams down the stretch. Still, the Bruins look as if they have found their game in the last week, and expecting them to drop points against Buffalo seems like a lot to ask.
The Rangers were off Monday after playing Saturday and Sunday. There’s no word on whom Quinn will start in goal against the Islanders on Tuesday, though it would be a shock if it wasn’t Igor Shesterkin (13-9-3, 2.28 goals-against average, .925 save percentage, two shutouts).
If they can get by the Islanders, the Rangers have two games coming up at Madison Square Garden on Thursday and Friday against the Philadelphia Flyers, who have fallen out of the race in the last few weeks. Taking four points from those two games doesn’t seem so far-fetched, but the need to take two points Tuesday against the Islanders comes first.
The Rangers have signed forward Will Cuylle, their second-round pick in 2020, to an entry-level contract, the club announced Monday. Cuylle, 19, is playing for the Rangers’ Hartford Wolf Pack farm club and has two goals, three assists and 26 penalty minutes in 13 games.