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Rangers seem to be playoff ready

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers believe they have found their game.

Their confidence in themselves comes at a most opportune time, on the eve of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We are where we need to be," Dan Girardi said after the Rangers' 4-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers finished the truncated season with a 26-18-4 record, compiling a 10-4-1 record in the final month of the season.

"April was a good month for us," Girardi said. "We played our style of hockey and won in different fashions."

Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Derek Stepan each finished with two points. Nash scored two goals, while Callahan and Stepan each recorded a goal and an assist, and Richards had two assists.

By winning, the Rangers passed the New York Islanders for sixth in the Eastern Conference. New York is guaranteed to start the playoffs no worse than seventh, and could be the sixth seed if the Ottawa Senators do not earn at least three points in their next two games.

"I am happy with the way we have handled ourselves the whole year," coach John Tortorella said. "I think we made some big plays (and won) some big games to keep us afloat during the tough times.

"That's what it is about, just find a way to get points and they did that with more consistency, and sustaining more within a game the last four or five weeks."

Stepan opened the scoring 2:37 into the game with his 18th goal of the season. John Moore intercepted Ryan Carter's clearing attempt, and dumped the puck behind the net, where Callahan gained control. The New York captain backhanded the puck to Stepan, for the one-timer.

"I just need to be in the right spot lately and (linemates Callahan and Carl Hagelin) just find way to get me the puck," Stepan said.

Callahan and Stepan combined on New York's second goal. With the Rangers shorthanded because of Taylor Pyatt's penalty, Stepan sprung Callahan for a breakaway with a home run pass. Callahan bore down on Johan Hedberg and snapped a shot between Johan Hedberg's legs.

The top line of Hagelin, Stepan and Callahan has recorded 41 points in the last 15 games.

"It's been a really good line," Tortorella said. "It's been a very good line."

Nash increased the lead to 3-0 late in the second. Following an offensive zone faceoff loss, Richards stole the puck from Adam Larsson and fed Nash for his 20th of the season.

Nash's goal came shortly after the New York left wing was wrestled to the ice on a semi-breakaway by Ilya Kovalchuk, but no penalty was called.

"I'll leave that to the pros," Nash said in response to a question about the non-call.

Nash finished a personal game of tic-tac-toe with Richards and Mats Zuccarello in the Devils' zone with his second goal of the game 5:30 into the third period.

"I thought that line, (when) we put it together the last game (a 4-3 overtime win Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes), I thought it ignited (Nash)," Tortorella said. "Hopefully it will continue."

Henrik Lundqvist stopped 20 shots to record his second shutout of the season. Lundqvist has 45 career regular season shutouts, four behind Hall of Famer Eddie Giacomin on the Rangers' all-time list.

"I feel good," Lundqvist said. "Especially the last three or four weeks."

New Jersey ended the season with a 19-19-10 record. Ten of the Devils 19 losses came on the road.

Hedberg made 17 saves.

"We were not good," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "It was a bad situation that we did not handle well."

NOTES: Henrik Lundqvist made his 14th consecutive start and the 23rd in New York's last 25 games. "He's fine," coach John Tortorella said. "You guys (the media) talk him into being tired. He's fine and I want to keep progressing as a team. We'll just try to keep on playing here."... New York scratched defensemen Matt Gilroy and Roman Hamrlik, and forwards Brian Boyle and Ryane Clowe. ... New Jersey scratched defensemen Mark Fayne, Eric Gelinas, Bryce Salvador and Alexander Urbom, and forwards Krystofer Barch, Matt D'Agostini, Tom Kostopoulos, Andrei Loktionov, Harri Pesonen and Mike Sislo. ... Salvador has missed the last eight games after being struck in the wrist by Zdeno Chara's slapshot in New Jersey's 5-4 loss to the Bruins on Apr. 10. "He's not ready to play," coach Pete DeBoer said. ... Johan Hedberg was New Jersey's starter in goal for the regular-season finale. ... The game was Brad Richards' 900th in the NHL. ... Rick Nash will play in the playoffs for only the second time in his career. He was a member of the 2008-09 Columbus Blue Jackets team that was swept in four games by the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. "No," Nash said, when asked if he had any memories of that series. "It was quick." ... New Jersey, which was eliminated from playoff contention by New York last Sunday, lost 15 of their final 21 games. "It was a lot of things. I don't think you could narrow it down," DeBoer said. "We had some opportunities to bounce back-and we played some good hockey in order to give ourselves the opportunity to bounce back, but we just never found a streak."
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