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Rangers wrap up Presidents' Trophy, defeat Devils

by Mike G. Morreale /

NEWARK, N.J. -- Rookie forward Kevin Hayes had a goal and two assists to help the New York Rangers clinch the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 4-2 victory against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Tuesday.

Ryan McDonagh, James Sheppard and Carl Hagelin scored for the Rangers (52-21-7), who have won five straight. Cam Talbot made 18 saves for his 21st win.

"Winning the Presidents' Trophy is not an easy thing to do; just look at the teams right now fighting to get into the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "It's a challenging thing, and I think for our group it's just one step in the direction that we're looking to get to. I'm very proud of our group, but we all know that we're going to be judged by what we do in the playoffs, so this is a first step.

"Now we need to get ready for the next one."

It is the third time the Rangers have won the Presidents' Trophy for having the most points in the NHL (1991-92 and 1993-94). The Rangers reached 52 wins for the second time; the other was 1993-94 (52 wins, 112 points), when they won the Stanley Cup.

"It's a great accomplishment," McDonagh said. "Like any team, we had to handle adversity, injuries and ups and downs. To say we won the regular season is a huge confidence boost and a huge reassurance what this team is capable of doing. We just needed to trust in the system and have everyone play their roles. When we come ready and prepared, we can do good things."

The Rangers have won nine of the past 10 road games (9-1-0) and have at least one point in 10 of the past 11 (9-1-1). They lead the NHL in road wins (27), road points (56) and road point percentage (.692). The Rangers have two regular-season games remaining, at home against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday and at the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

Vigneault is the second NHL coach to win the Presidents' Trophy three times, having done it twice with the Vancouver Canucks. Scotty Bowman won it four times.

Patrik Elias and Steve Bernier scored for the Devils (32-35-13); Cory Schneider made 36 saves. The Devils, who played their final home game, play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday and Florida Panthers on Saturday.

The Rangers defeated the Devils four times, sweeping the season series for the first time since 1993-94 (6-0-0). New York outscored New Jersey 17-7.

"There's certain teams that you may struggle against or you don't have success against, but when it's [the Rangers] it makes it worse," Schneider said.

Talbot went 16-4-3 with a 2.16 goals-against average, two shutouts and a .929 save percentage while Henrik Lundqvist was sidelined by a vascular injury, keeping the Rangers in the hunt for the best record in the League.

"It meant a lot to me [playing in this game] to be honest," Talbot said. "To go out there and be able to able to play in the Presidents' Trophy-clinching game was a big moment for myself. The boys came out and battled for a full 60 minutes and it was probably it was one of our more complete games of the year. It was a great team effort and team win."

Hayes said of Talbot, "It was awesome, he's been fantastic. When [Lundqvist] went down no one was nervous. Entering the playoffs we have two great goalies, so it's pretty nice."

Lundqvist has played five games (4-1-0) and has a 2.00 GAA and .937 save percentage in four straight wins since returning. Vigneault said Lundqvist would start the final two games.

The Rangers took a 3-1 lead in the third period when Sheppard fought off a check by Adam Larsson and scored off a deflection at the right post at 10:41.

New York is 149-1-9 in its past 159 games when starting the third period with a lead.

Bernier scored when he banked a shot at the right post off Derick Brassard and Talbot to pull the Devils within 3-2 at 11:32.

Hagelin scored into an empty net, off a pass from Hayes, with 1:48 remaining.

"It's been an impressive year," Hayes said. "Ever since Day One it was always a who's-up-next mentality. We've had some injuries and had some key guys step up this season. It just shows we have a deep team that was successful from start to finish."

The Rangers took a 2-1 lead in the first period, when they outshot the Devils 19-4. McDonagh scored a power-play goal on a shot from the point through a screen provided by Rick Nash and Hayes to make it 2-0 at 14:32. The goal came seven seconds after Jacob Josefson was penalized for hooking.

"We'll approach our remaining two games the same way we approach every game, with good habits," McDonagh said. "We're competitors all the way. The games may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but you want to be playing well and feeling good about yourself before a long playoff run."

Elias made it 2-1 when he scored a power-play goal from the slot at 17:44 of the first period. Josefson barely missed tying the game less than a minute later but Talbot made the save.

Hayes gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead when he took advantage of a turnover in the Devils end. Carl Hagelin stole the puck from Gelinas, and Hayes scored his 16th of the season from the right side of the net at 13:45. It was the first goal for Hayes in five games.

"He's just a well-rounded player with a good attitude, that's the best thing," McDonagh said of Hayes. "For a young guy, you want to come to the rink understanding that there's going to be criticism, there's going to be ups and downs, but you can't feel upset or frustrated about your game. He really doesn't show it and tries to play positive. He plays with a good attitude and never really complains."

Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello was not in the lineup and is day-to-day with body soreness, Vigneault said. Zuccarello was replaced by Sheppard, who skated on the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Tanner Glass.


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