The Rangers won their regular-season finale Saturday, but they’ll have to wait until Sunday night to find out which team they’ll meet in the first round of the playoffs.
Their 3-2 win over the Red Wings Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden gave the Rangers 101 points and put them in third place in the Metropolitan Division. The third-place team will face second-place Pittsburgh in the first round.
The Islanders lost to Buffalo, 4-3, in overtime Saturday night and have 100 points. If the Isles beat the Flyers in Sunday night’s season finale, they will finish third and play Pittsburgh. If the Islanders lose, they will finish fourth and face Atlantic Division champion Florida.
An overtime loss Sunday night would give the Islanders 101 points, but the Rangers own the tiebreaker (most regulation plus overtime wins).
If the Islanders pass the Rangers with a victory Sunday night, the Blueshirts will finish in the first wild-card spot and face Florida, which some think might be a more advantageous matchup.
“We’re not scared of anybody,” Marc Staal said. “You don’t lose to play somebody else. [The playoffs] are a different season and you get prepared for the best time of year regardless of what would have happened today.”
The Rangers were missing four players with injuries — Ryan McDonagh (hand), Dan Girardi (upper body), Mats Zuccarello and Viktor Stalberg (both lower body) — and Henrik Lundqvist was given the day off.
Eric Staal also left after being struck in the head or neck during a tangle in the faceoff circle at 18:09 of the second period. It appeared that Jesper Fast accidentally made contact while skating through. Coach Alain Vigneault said keeping Staal off the ice was precautionary and expected him to “be fine.” He also said that three of the four injured — excluding McDonagh — will be ready for the start of the playoffs.
Antti Raanta, who made 31 saves, was outstanding in earning his 11th victory.
The Red Wings appeared to take a 1-0 lead at 2:42 of the first period when Joakim Andersson swiped in a rebound off a two-on-one. But the Rangers challenged that the play was offside, and a review overturned the goal, determining that Andersson indeed was offside. The Rangers were 4-for-10 on challenges this season.
Dan Boyle scored on a two-on-one when he came down the right side, shot low and beat Jimmy Howard for his 10th goal and a 1-0 lead at 16:24.
In the second period, with Rick Nash in the box for tripping, Pavel Datsyuk’s wrister from just below the left point struck Riley Sheahan’s elbow in front and got past Raanta at 6:42.
With the score tied at 1, Dylan McIlrath’s wrister from the right boards was tipped past Howard by Kevin Hayes with 5:38 left in regulation. Oscar Lindberg, who also assisted on that goal, scored an empty-netter with 2:36 to go.
Justin Abdelkader scored with 1:34 left, and the Rangers then killed off a six-on-three. The Red Wings qualified for the playoffs anyway after Boston’s 5-1 loss to Ottawa eliminated the Bruins.
“That team was fighting for their playoff lives,” Derek Stepan said. “We didn’t want to take our foot off the gas pedal, so to be able to go out and get a ‘W’ in the last game, it’s good for our group to get some confidence rolling.’’