Rangers just inches short of avoiding regulation loss in critical matchup with rival Devils


The Devils and Rangers battled through a thriller at The Rock on Thursday night, with New Jersey taking the 2-1 win in a game that had major playoff implications.

On a night where the Blueshirts could have moved into a second place tie with New Jersey in the Metropolitan Division, New York instead fell four points back and lost the tiebreaker with its Hudson River rivals.

Adding to the frustration of the loss was just how close the Rangers came to securing at least a point in the road matchup, and final meeting of the regular season between the two teams.

With one minute left in regulation, New York was pressing for the equalizing goal while Igor Shesterkin watched from the bench. The Rangers nearly tied the game when a shot on goal was slowed, but not smothered, by Devils goalie Vitek Vanecek, who saw the puck lead through his legs and right near the goal line, where Vladimir Tarasenko was waiting to tap the puck into a wide open net.

Instead, Ryan Graves swooped in and cleared the puck out of the crease and into the corner just before Tarasenko could get a stick on the puck, holding a 2-1 lead for the Devils that they would not relinquish.

It was a big win for the Devils, who took another step towards securing a second place finish in the Metro, which would give them home ice advantage in a first round matchup with the Rangers to open up the playoffs, in what would be the rivals’ first postseason meeting since the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, which New Jersey won in six games thanks to Adam Henrique’s overtime winner in game six.

The win also gave the Devils some hope that they could avoid the Rangers in the first round and win the Metro division, as their victory coupled with a Hurricanes loss puts New Jersey just one point behind Carolina in the standings, though Canes still have one game in hand, while the Devils have seven games left to play.

Follow Ryan Chichester on Twitter: @ryanchichester1

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