- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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What it means: The Rangers avoided a matchup against the dominant Pittsburgh Penguins with a 4-0 win against the Devils in the regular-season finale at Madison Square Garden Saturday. Held off the scoresheet in three games heading into's Saturday's matinee, Rick Nash tallied twice for the Rangers, who closed out the season with 56 points. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 20 saves in his 14th consecutive start to record his second shutout of the season. Now, the Rangers will face the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Another chance: Dragged down on a breakaway that went un-penalized earlier in the period, Nash went on to notch his 20th goal of the season anyway, beating Devils goaltender Johan Hedberg for a 3-0 Rangers lead in the second. Extending his point streak to six games, alternate captain Brad Richards made a seamless feed to Nash at the left circle with 2:37 remaining in the middle frame. That line connected again in the third period for Nash's second goal of the day -- and 21st of the season -- after Mats Zucccarello found Nash for a 4-goal Rangers lead, with Richards picking up a secondary assist. Richards has registered five goals and 11 points over the last six games.
Top line: The Rangers’ top line of Carl Hagelin, Dererk Stepan and Ryan Callahan led the way for the Blueshirts in the first, securing a 2-0 lead heading into the intermission. Callahan fed Stepan from behind the net for a 1-0 Rangers lead 2:37 into play. Stephan returned the favor later in the period, intercepting a pass at the red line and dishing off to Callahan who beat Hedberg five-hole for a shorthanded goal with less than a minute to play.
No Clowe: The Rangers were without Ryane Clowe, who suffered an undisclosed injury in Thursday’s playoff-clinching win over Carolina. Kris Newbury was recalled from the minors to replace Clowe in the lineup. Meanwhile, gritty forward Arron Asham returned to the lineup after missing Thursday’s game to be with his wife, who gave birth that night.
Brodeur on bench: With the Devils already eliminated from playoff contention (the Rangers officially ousted them last week), goaltender Martin Brodeur sat out the season’s finale. That didn’t stop Rangers fans from taunting him while on the bench, however. The crowd at MSG chanted “We want Marty!” throughout the game and jeered the future Hall of Famer even when it was Hedberg who surrendered a goal.
Up Next: Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals; against the Washington Capitals.
98dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald