They won’t get there themselves, but the Rangers still could have a say about who makes the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Much to the chagrin of the Hurricanes.
Carolina entered Monday night’s game at Madison Square Garden six points out of a playoff berth, though with a game in hand on Columbus, which occupied that second wild-card spot.
But the Rangers own the Hurricanes, especially at the Garden, and they dealt a damaging blow to Carolina’s playoff aspirations with a 6-3 victory powered by Jimmy Vesey’s first career hat trick and two goals by Mats Zuccarello.
Vesey’s hat trick included the game-winner with 7:45 remaining in the third period and an empty-netter with 23.8 seconds to go. Zuccarello had the game’s first goal and an empty- netter of his own with 2:37 left that was the 100th goal of his NHL career.
The win was the Rangers’ third in three games over the Hurricanes this season and their 15th straight home win against Carolina. The teams will face off one more time this season, on March 31 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
After Columbus’ victory Monday night, Carolina is seven points behind the Devils for the final wild-card spot and also trails Florida by four points.
“We play well against them,’’ Mika Zibanejad said with a shrug. “I don’t know what the reason is — you just have some of those teams.’’
Vesey’s second goal broke a 3-3 tie. Off a rush up the left wing, he beat Carolina goalie Scott Darling with a bad-angle shot that went over the goalie’s right shoulder and dinged in off the crossbar on the near side. Zuccarello’s first goal came on a similar play, from nearly the same spot.
“The difference was goaltending,’’ Rangers coach Alain Vig neault said. “Their goaltender had a tough night and our young goaltender [Alexandar Georgiev] had a good night, made some timely saves [41 overall]. We got a couple goals there I’m sure their guy [Darling] would like to have back.’’
The victory didn’t come without a cost for the Rangers, however. Defenseman Tony DeAngelo left the game midway through the second period after sliding awkwardly into the boards. DeAngelo remained on the ice on all fours for several moments, unable to get up, as play continued. Finally, he got up and limped to the slot area before the referees stopped play. Vigneault said DeAngelo suffered an ankle injury and will undergo an MRI on Tuesday.
The Rangers opened the scoring on Zuccarello’s first goal at 9:06 of the first period. It was his 13th of the season and his third straight game with a goal after a stretch in which he went seven games without one and 11 games with one goal.
Carolina’s Teuvo Teravainen tied the score at 14:32, but Vesey put the Rangers back on top with his first goal at 1:52 of the second period.
After Carolina tied it on a rebound goal by Lee Stempniak at 7:48, Vladislav Namestnikov’s power-play goal put the Blueshirts up 3-2 at 11:51 of the second period.
Victor Rask’s power-play goal tied the score for the third time before Vesey scored the winner.
After Vesey completed the hat trick, Zibanejad (who had three assists) got the puck for him.
“It’s nice to have [a hat trick],’’ Vesey said. “Everyone dreams, when they’re a kid, of scoring the big goal or scoring a hat trick. I think it’s something I’ll always remember.’’
Notes & quotes: Forward David Desharnais, who missed Saturday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Panthers in Florida on Saturday because of a kidney stone issue, was in the lineup despite the fact that, as of the morning skate, he had not passed the kidney stone, according to Vigneault . . . Backup goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who suffered a sprained MCL in his knee in a game against Calgary on Feb. 9, took shots from some of his teammates after the morning skate.