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Surging Rangers seek ninth straight series win over Devils

Mar 20, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA;  New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider (20) is congratulated by  center Mika Zibanejad (93) and left wing Alexis Lafreni  re (13) after his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Four goals turned out to be enough for the New York Rangers to complete a successful weekend against two of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. It also made capturing the Metropolitan Division more of a possibility.

The Rangers will continue their quest for first place Tuesday night in Newark, N.J., when they visit the New Jersey Devils.

The Rangers head to New Jersey after sweeping a back-to-back set with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. After Mika Zibanejad scored the tiebreaking power-play goal with 16 seconds left in Saturday’s 2-1 win at Tampa Bay, the Rangers followed it up with an impressive 2-0 win at Carolina on Sunday.

Chris Kreider scored his 41st goal and backup Alexandar Georgiev made 44 saves in a game where the Rangers mustered only 17 shots on goal. It was enough to hike New York’s point total to 85, tying them with the Pittsburgh Penguins and pulling to within three of the Hurricanes.

“We were lucky,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “We were a tired hockey team. They were all over us. They dominated, but we found a way to get two points.”

The Rangers own 40 wins, one fewer than Carolina, which has a game in hand and is hosting Tampa Bay Tuesday. Pittsburgh owns 38 wins and has a back-to-back with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres before visiting the Rangers on Friday.

Escaping Carolina with two points gave New York its fourth win in five games (4-1-0) since getting outscored 11-4 in consecutive lopsided losses at Minnesota and St. Louis two weeks ago.

The Rangers were busy on trade deadline day, acquiring Winnipeg Jets forward Andrew Copp, San Jose Sharks forward Nick Merkley, Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Motte and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Justin Braun in four separate deals.

New Jersey’s next three games are against playoff contenders, as it visits the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals after facing the Rangers. The Devils are returning home after an unsuccessful Western Canada trip that saw them endure three straight 6-3 losses to the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers and wind up with several players battling bouts of stomach flu.

Unlike the visits to Vancouver and Calgary, the Devils held a lead on Saturday in Edmonton. Jesper Bratt scored twice and Nico Hischier gave New Jersey a 3-2 lead 3:14 into the third, but the Devils allowed three goals in a span of 3:48 en route to their 18th loss by at least three goals this season.

“It’s frustrating, but if you look at the whole game, I think we did a couple of things pretty well,” Hischier said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a terrible game, but it’s just frustrating at the end coming out of here short.”

The Devils allowed 18 of their 40 shots on goal in the third period to slip to 1-4-0 in their past five games.

Despite New Jersey’s recent struggles, Bratt and Hischier are performing well of late. Bratt has seven goals and 17 points in his past 12 games while Hischier has nine goals and 18 points in his past 14 contests.

The Rangers have won the past eight meetings against the Devils, including seven by at least two goals. They claimed a 3-1 victory March 4 in New York when Filip Chytil scored the tiebreaking goal in the second period and Kreider tallied in the third.

–Field Level Media