NEWARK — Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who said last week he believed the team would have made the playoffs had it not decided to strip the roster down at the trade deadline and rebuild, said on Saturday he took no joy in eliminating the Carolina Hurricanes by beating them that night.
And before Tuesday’s game Vigneault said he would take no particular joy in stalling the Devils’ clinching of a playoff spot with a win.
“For me, New York is New York,’’ he said. “I’d like the New York City surroundings to have NHL playoffs this year.’’
As it turned out, the Rangers never came close to spoiling anything for the Devils Tuesday night. MVP candidate Taylor Hall had two goals — one on a penalty shot — and defenseman Will Butcher had two of his own as the Devils routed the Rangers, 5-2 at Prudential Center. New Jersey needed a win and a regulation loss by Florida to clinch a playoff spot Tuesday, but Florida beat Nashville.
“You can tell the difference, why they’re in [the playoff picture] and why we’re not,’’ said Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who made 39 saves. “Hall is a difference maker for them, you’ve got to give him and their team a lot of credit.’’
Travis Zajac’s goal gave the Devils the lead 25 seconds in, and the Devils would score three power-play goals, as the Rangers’ penalty killing unit was missing two of its key forwards in Jesper Fast and Mats Zuccarello.
Fast is out, likely for the season, with a groin injury, Vigneault said, and Zuccarello has a lower body problem after blocking one too many shots over the weekend. He is not necessarily done for the year, Vigneault said.
New Jersey led, 3-0, by the 10:40 mark of the first period, before Ryan Spooner tipped in Kevin Hayes’ pass with 2:13 left in the period. The Devils got two more goals in the second period before Hayes scored his 24th goal of the season with 5:34 to go in the third.
Notes & Quotes: The Rangers started the game one forward short after Cody McLeod was forced to leave during warmups with a pain in his side, Vigneault said. McLeod was sent to the hospital and Vigneault said the team doesn’t know if the problem is a kidney stone or something else. David Desharnais, who sat out Saturday’s game in Carolina with a sore wrist, was supposed to be a scratch and was late getting to the game because of traffic. He dressed and played six shifts.
Vigneault said he communicated Monday night with Henrik and Daniel Sedin, who announced their retirement from the NHL earlier in the day. He said he thanked them and they thanked him for their time together.
“You talk about a guy falling in the right place at the right time? I got there and the twins were 25 years old — they were young players with still a lot of development left in their game,’’ Vigneault said. “I was at the right place at the right time and they’re two of the best players I’ve ever coached. We were able to develop those guys, we added some veteran players and the twins became what they are today — future Hall of Famers.’’ . . . Rookie D Tony DeAngelo won’t play again this season, Vigneault said.