Rangers end regular season with 3-2 victory over Penguins
NEW YORK (AP) — With little at stake in the regular-season finale, the Rangers and Penguins just wanted to get through it unscathed.
Now both teams can focus on the playoffs as they chase the Stanley Cup.
Jimmy Vesey scored a tiebreaking goal in the third period and the Rangers beat the Penguins 3-2 Sunday night.
Ryan McDonagh had a goal and an assist, Derek Stepan had a goal and Mika Zibanejad added two assists for the Rangers, who will match up against the Atlantic Division champion Montreal Canadiens in the postseason.
“Both teams are trying to do the same thing,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “We’re trying to get through this game as healthy as we can. We’re able to do that and win the game at the same time.”
Nick Bonino and Carter Rowney scored for the Penguins, who will face the Metropolitan Division rival Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round as they look to defend their Stanley Cup.
“Obviously we’re happy with the regular season. We put ourselves in a good spot,” Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin said.
“Right now we’re focusing, we’re all excited. There’s a lot of playoff experience in this room. We know what it takes and we’re excited.”
With the game tied at 2, Vesey scored his 16th of the season on a backhand at 7:23 of the third period to help the Rangers end the regular season with a victory.
Both teams were locked into their playoff positions entering the game. Superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were among the dozen players who missed the game for the Penguins and Tristan Jarry made his NHL debut in net. Jarry finished with 22 saves.
“I thought he looked really good in there. He has a calm demeanor about him,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Jarry.
“He looked very composed. Made some big saves for us. They had a couple of breakaways. He had some really nice saves. He was tracking the puck well. His rebound control was good. I thought he had a really solid game.”
Magnus Hellberg, who was recalled from the American Hockey League earlier in the day, started in goal for the Rangers and had 22 saves in his first NHL win.
“I am a little overwhelmed right now. Of course I am very happy,” Hellberg said. “This is something I’ve been fighting for for five years, so to be able to get this opportunity in the last game of the season is very big for me. Obviously, the guys played great in front of me.”
Henrik Lundqvist was given the day off and backup Antti Raanta missed the game with an injury. Forwards Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes and Jesper Fast also sat out for New York.
Nick Bonino opened the scoring when he beat Vesey to a rebound in front and backhanded his 18th goal of the season at 9:16 of the first period.
Less than a minute later, Jarry made a spectacular save on Tanner Glass. Jarry made a stick save on Glass’ shot at the goal line then batted the puck in the air and grabbed it with his left glove.
McDonagh tied at 1 at 13:54 when he skated into the zone and wristed a shot past Jarry for his sixth of the season. And Stepan gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead with a shot from the point for a power-play goal, his 17th of the season overall, with 1:29 left in the period.
Rowney tied it at 2 late in the second as he took advantage of a turnover and skated in and beat Hellberg with a wrist shot for his third of the season at 13:38.
NOTES: Mats Zuccarello won the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award named for former New York City police officer Steven McDonald, who died in January at 59. It has been presented annually since the 1987-88 season. ... Defenseman Ryan McDonagh was honored as the team’s most valuable player. The award was voted on by members of the Rangers media and has been given annually since the end of the 1941-42 season. ... Jesper Fast earned the “Players’ Player” award, which is selected by his teammates and has been given annually since the end of the 1958-59 season. ... Amanda Kessel of the U.S. women’s hockey team was in attendance. Kessel and the U.S. won the gold medal at the world championships with a 3-2 overtime win over Canada. Kessel is the sister of Penguins forward Phil Kessel.
Penguins: Host the Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs.
Rangers: Travel to Montreal to face the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs.
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