Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rangers now have only Jets to fear

MSG fans mock Devils as they're eliminated

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NEW YORK -- The New York Rangers insist they are focused much more on their drive toward the playoffs than ending the New Jersey Devils' post-season hopes.

With a thorough 4-1 victory Sunday, the Broadway Blueshirts took care of both.

Rangers 4

Devils 1

Ryan Callahan scored a goal in the opening minute and another in the third period, and Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves as the Rangers eliminated the Devils from the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Callahan provided the lead 34 seconds in, Derek Stepan added a goal in the first period, and Taylor Pyatt snapped a long drought in the second for the eighth-place Rangers, who are inching closer to a playoff berth.

"It's always nice to beat them," said Brad Richards, who had two assists. "It was a big win for us. They're out now, but that's not why we were playing. We were playing because we need to stay alive. Now we're down to nine teams, so the odds are better."

Of the teams behind the Rangers, only Winnipeg can catch them. New York is even in points with seventh-place Ottawa, but the Senators have four games remaining -- one more than the Rangers. Winnipeg is three points behind with three games left.

New York has won three straight and is 8-2-1 in its last 11. The Rangers aren't looking too far ahead. After a trip to Florida and Carolina, they will wrap up their season at home Saturday against the Devils.

"We're playing our best hockey we've played all year," Callahan said. "Now is the time to do that. We've been playing playoff-style hockey the last couple of games. These are must-wins for us. It gives us a dress rehearsal for the playoffs."

Callahan made it 4-0 at 5:13 of the third with a power-play goal, flipping a shot over sprawled-out goalie Martin Brodeur, who tried to poke away the puck. Brodeur heard derisive chants of "Mar-ty, Mar-ty" throughout and finished with 18 saves.

"It's difficult to take," Brodeur said of the elimination. "We've competed real hard all year."

Lundqvist was solid in his 12th straight start, allowing only Andrei Loktionov's goal with 6:30 remaining. The Rangers had more space between games recently. The extra rest has helped Lundqvist stay sharp.

He told coach John Tortorella he won't ever ask out of the lineup.

"It's like the playoffs have been going on for a couple of weeks," Lundqvist said. "It's fun to be out there. I don't want to sit on the bench."

The Devils won't get a chance to defend their conference title. New Jersey had won two straight -- including 6-2 on Saturday against Florida -- following a 10-game skid (0-6-4).

"We pride ourselves on being there every year," forward Stephen Gionta said. "Unfortunately, we're not. It definitely hurts. The organization prides itself on winning and being in the playoffs every year. Anything less is a disappointment."

Madison Square Garden fans serenaded the Devils with chants of "Season's over" as time ticked down in the third.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 22, 2013 C3

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