NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers failed to gain ground in the Eastern Conference wild-card race, losing to the New Jersey Devils 6-4 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
The Rangers (36-28-4) are three points behind the New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. New York has one win in its past five games, 6-5 in overtime against the Washington Capitals on Thursday.
"I don't want to take anything away from [the Devils] because this isn't something they just did tonight, they've been doing this for a while," Rangers coach David Quinn said. "That being said, to really get outplayed as badly as we did tonight in every capacity is alarming."
[WATCH: All Devils vs. Rangers highlights]
The Devils (28-28-12) ended the St. Louis Blues' eight-game winning streak Friday, defeating them 4-2 at Prudential Center.
Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac each scored two goals, Fredrik Claesson and John Hayden scored, and Mackenzie Blackwood made 31 saves for New Jersey, which is 6-1-2 since Feb. 20.
Video: NJD@NYR: Zajac, Hayden score 25 seconds apart
The Devils are 11 points behind the Islanders and Blue Jackets.
"We want to be spoilers, and that was part of the message and motivation," New Jersey coach Alain Nasreddine said. "It's a rivalry game, MSG, and guys were ready. I really liked the way we skated. It shows a lot of character, back-to-back wins versus two teams that were really hot."
Mika Zibanejad scored for the fourth straight game (nine goals) for the Rangers. He has scored in 10 of the past 11 games (15 goals).
Video: NJD@NYR: Zibanejad buries Fox's feed from the slot
New York goalie Igor Shesterkin was pulled after the second period. He allowed five goals on 23 shots for his first loss in eight starts. Henrik Lundqvist made five saves in relief.
It was Shesterkin's first start since Feb. 22. He missed six games with a nondisplaced rib fracture.
"The goaltender was the least of our problems tonight," Quinn said. "I don't think we had one guy have a good night tonight."
Filip Chytil gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 5:34 of the first period. Palmieri tied it 1-1 at 6:22.
Video: NJD@NYR: Palmieri beats Shesterkin from tough angle
New York took a 2-1 lead on Zibanejad's 39th goal of the season at 7:18.
"I don't think we were very good in the first [period]," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "We just weren't playing well. We were getting beat to pucks. We were playing way too loose."
It continued in the second period, when the Devils scored four goals.
"We were ready to put our push on and play our game," Palmieri said.
Palmieri scored his second of the game at 44 seconds to tie it 2-2. Claesson scored his first with the Devils 52 seconds later for a 3-2 lead. The defenseman was acquired in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 24.
Zajac scored on the power play at 16:19 to extend the lead to 4-2 and Hayden scored 25 seconds later on a deflection to make it 5-2.
"We made it real easy for them," Zibanejad said. "We just didn't have an answer. We dug ourselves a hole. Going forward, with the playoff-type of games we have in front of us, we can't do that. … Just a bad performance overall."
Greg McKegg scored on a deflection at 13:42 of the third period to make it 5-3. Zajac's empty-net goal at 19:04 extended the lead to 6-3, and Tony DeAngelo scored at 19:17 for the 6-4 final.
"We owed them," Zajac said. "We've gotten beat by them [two times] this year. We owed them one. It's an important time for them in the season so it makes it sweeter for us"
They said it
"We're going to play a lot of teams down the stretch here that every point matters, and those are fun games to play in. With how young a roster we have it's a learning process how to win games this time of year. Whether or not you're the team fighting for those points, we're going to grow as a group." -- Devils forward Kyle Palmieri
"Everyone in the room needs to understand it's going to get way harder. The teams we're playing coming up are all in it and points will be hard to come by. When you have a performance like that at this time of the year you're going to lose." -- Rangers defenseman Marc Staal
Need to know
Zajac's second goal was his 195th in the NHL, passing Zach Parise and putting him fourth in Devils history, seven behind Bobby Holik. Patrik Elias scored 406, and John MacLean scored 347 for New Jersey. … Zibanejad needs one goal to become the Rangers' first 40-goal scorer since Rick Nash scored 42 in 2014-15. He would become the first Rangers center with a 40-goal season since Mark Messier scored 47 in 1995-96. … DeAngelo is the first Rangers defenseman with at least 15 goals in a season since Brian Leetch scored 21 in 2000-01. … Adam Fox had two assists to give him 31 and become the fifth rookie defenseman in Rangers history with 30 assists in a season. Leetch (48 in 1988-89), Reijo Ruotsalainen (38 in 1981-82), Ron Greschner (37 in 1974-75) and Brady Skjei (34 in 2016-17) were the others. … Lundqvist appeared in his 887th game to pass Tony Esposito and move into eighth place for NHL goalies.
Devils: Host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV)
Rangers: At the Dallas Stars on Tuesday (8:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, FS-SW, MSG2, NHL.TV)
Video: Palmieri, Zajac propel Devils past Rangers