The New York Rangers got the job done tonight, defeated the New Jersey Devils 4-2, and clinched the Eastern Conference and Presidents Trophy in the process. Those were the two major accomplishments to left to achieve for the Rangers, and with two games remaining in the regular season, they can finally sit back and regroup. It was kind of fitting that Cam Talbot was in net for the clinching game, mainly because without his spectacular play this season, the Rangers aren't close to accomplishing any of this.
The Rangers controlled a majority of the play early on in this game, and just like the last time against the Devils, they were able to convert more than once. It took them a little while to beak through, but once the Rangers found their legs, they were off to the races. Finally, at the 13:45 mark, the Rangers broke through with their first goal coming from Kevin Hayes.
All three forwards deserve credit for this goal, and ironically enough, all three of them picked up a point on the goal. The play started with the Rangers losing the face-off, but Carl Hagelin was able to track down the puck behind the net, and chopped it off of Martin St. Louis skate. The puck quickly deflected out front to Kevin Hayes, and he chipped it by Corey Schneider for the 1-0 lead.
About a minute later, the Devils got into some penalty trouble and Jacob Josefson was sending off for hooking James Sheppard. Just seven seconds into the power play, Keith Yandle worked the puck over to Ryan McDonagh, who bombed a slap shot on net. With both Rick Nash and Kevin Hayes stationed in front of the net, Schneider never saw the puck, and it slipped under his blocker to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
After the Rangers were able to convert on the power play, the Devils got the chance a few moments later as Tanner Glass was sent off for holding. Just as the penalty was expiring, Steve Bernier set up Patrik Elias in the high slot, and he ripped it by Cam Talbot to cut the Rangers lead to one. The Rangers were able to close out the period while holding onto their 2-1 lead, while also out-shooting the Devils by a lopsided 19-4 count.
Unfortunately, there wasn't any goal scoring done during the second period, but there was a whole lot of stupidity coming on the Devils part. Between Jordan Tootoo running around like a cannonball, and Eric Gelinas throwing unnecessary punches to the back of Dominic Moore's head, the Devils were digging themselves into a hole. Although, the Rangers weren't able to answer the bell with the Devils gifting them four power plays, and the Rangers went into the third period still hanging onto their 2-1 lead.
About midway through the period, the Rangers finally restored their two goal lead as James Sheppard jammed home his seventh of the season. Marc Staal starts off the play by keeping the puck in at the blue line, and chipping it down the boards to Dominic Moore. Moore quickly corralled the puck, found Sheppard cutting to the net, and hit him right on the tape with a perfect pass.
Sheppard basically just had to stand there, and he redirected the puck through Schneider's five hole to make it a 3-1 game. The Devils weren't going away that easy though, as just under a minute later, Steve Bernier cut the lead back to one. No one was able to pick up Bernier trailing the play, and Travis Zajac found him cutting in late to break in on Cam Talbot. Talbot wound up over committing by sliding out of his crease, and Bernier was able to slip it around him from the impossible angle.
The puck wound up deflecting off of Derick Brassard attempting to clear the puck, but he wound up knocking it into his own net. Finally, with about two minutes remaining, Carl Hagelin iced the game by slamming home the empty net goal off of a beautiful drop pass from Kevin Hayes. The Rangers were able to kill off the remaining time on the clock, locked up the 4-2 victory, and clinched the Eastern Conference as well as the Presidents Trophy.
With two games remaining, the Rangers don't have anything left to accomplish during the regular season, so it won't be surprising if they start resting players. Everything is locked up as it stands right now, and it will give them enough time to get rested before the real season begins next week. Thursday night should definitely be interesting through, as the Ottawa Senators come to town looking to make a last minute playoff push.