NEW YORK (AP) — Rick Nash scored his career-best 42nd goal, Henrik Lundqvist made 35 saves and New York Rangers moved closer to securing home-ice advantage for the playoffs with a 6-1 victory Saturday over the New Jersey Devils.
Keith Yandle and Dominic Moore scored 25 seconds apart to cap a big three-goal first period, Derek Stepan added a short-handed goal in the second and Derick Brassard and Moore tallied in the third.
It was the Rangers’ third straight win. They’re tied with Anaheim for the most points in the league — 107 — and are three ahead of Montreal and Tampa Bay in the race for the best mark in the Eastern Conference.
New York has played one fewer game than the Canadiens and two fewer than the Ducks and Lightning. There are four games left in the regular season.
While Nash started outburst early, Lundqvist was exceptional throughout. Playing for the fourth time since returning from a neck injury that sidelined him for almost two months, Lundqvist withstood an early push by the Devils and made at least a half-dozen saves that had the crowd chanting “Hen-reek” several times.
That bodes well for New York with the playoffs starting in just over a week. “The King” was iffy in his return against Boston but has since shaken the rust off in wins over Winnipeg, Minnesota and now the Devils.
New Jersey, which helped the Rangers out Friday by beating Montreal in a shootout, didn’t score until Tuomo Ruutu scored with 3:30 to play.
Nash gave the Rangers the lead about 5 minutes after the opening faceoff, deflecting a Mats Zuccarello pass past Devils goalie Cory Schneider, who was replaced by Keith Kinkaid after giving up three goals on six shots.
Nash’s 42 goals tie him with Phil Esposito (78-79) and Marian Gaborik (2009-10) for the 11th highest total by a Ranger in a season.
Yandle stretched the lead to 2-0 at 11:59 with a shot from the right point on which he faked a pass and seemed to catch Schneider off guard. Moore got his first goal 25 seconds later after the Rangers caught the Devils on a counterattack and he beat Schneider in close.
Stepan’s 14th goal of the season came on a breakaway set up by Nash with 2.7 seconds left in the second.
Brassard scored early in the third on a shot that hit off a Devil defenseman, and Moore got his second with a deflection of a Ryan McDonagh shot.
NOTES: Zuccarello had three goals and six assists in his last nine games. … Stepan has two goals and six assists in his last eight. … Devils F Stephen Gionta missed his second straight game with a back problem. … With the exception of Schneider starting in goal, the Devils used the same lineup from Friday. … McDonagh’s two assists gave him 101 in his NHL career.
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