NEW YORK — Henrik Lundqvist made 20 saves in coasting to his second shutout of the season, and Rick Nash scored twice for the playoff-bound New York Rangers in a 4-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
The Rangers still had to wait to find out who they will face in the first round of the playoffs, but they know it won’t be the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers avoided finishing eighth in the Eastern Conference and will be either the No. 6 or 7 seed.
Derek Stepan and Ryan Callahan both had a goal and assist in the first period against backup goalie Johan Hedberg, who gave Martin Brodeur a rare game off. One year after reaching the Stanley Cup finals, the Devils will head home early after failing to make the playoffs.
Unsympathetic Rangers fans serenaded the Devils with chants of “Season’s Over” as the final minutes ticked down.
Lundqvist was hardly tested in earning his 45th NHL shutout. The Rangers, who wrapped up their third straight playoff berth with a win at Carolina on Thursday, went 10-3-1 in their final 14 games.
Hedberg made 17 saves in the matchup of Swedish goalies. New Jersey was shut out for the fourth time, all in the final 12 games.
The Rangers started quickly, seemingly determined to get out of eighth place and avoid the Penguins in the first round.
Callahan picked up right where he left off Thursday when he scored the overtime goal that got New York back into the postseason. The Rangers’ captain moved back and forth behind the New Jersey net and shifted the puck from backhand to forehand before throwing the puck out front to the waiting Stepan, who unleashed a lightning-fast one-timer that beat Hedberg just 2:37 in for his 18th goal.
The pair would team up again in the final minute of the period while Taylor Pyatt served a questionable hooking penalty. Stepan intercepted the puck from Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky and send a lead pass ahead to Callahan for the short-handed breakaway.
Callahan darted from side to side as he raced in on Hedberg, and deked enough to open up the goalie’s pads to slip the puck in with 58.8 seconds left in the period. It was Callahan’s 16th goal of the season, and nearly his second short-handed tally of the game.
Just over 6 minutes in, while Rangers forward Carl Hagelin was off for tripping, Callahan got past Ilya Kovalchuk in the New Jersey zone and came in alone on Hedberg, but his stuff attempt was denied at the right post.
The Rangers look much better while killing penalties than on their one power-play chance in the first. After taking a 7-1 lead in shots early in the period, New York finished with only a 9-8 edge.
Nash garnered the Rangers’ third short-handed break of the game with 6:55 left in the second, but his rush was thwarted by the back-checking Kovalchuk, who got his stick in on Nash’s hands — forcing the Rangers forward to his knees and having him push the puck wide of the net.
Nash would connect with 2:37 remaining after the Rangers won a faceoff in the New Jersey end. Brad Richards sent a pass from behind the net out to Nash, who snapped off a wrist shot from the edge of the left circle for his 20th goal of the season.
Nash made it 4-0 at 5:30 of the third when he whipped a shot from the slot past Hedberg off a feed from Mats Zuccarello.
Jones could be top pick
CHICAGO -- Amid a hectic week as a Nets assistant coach, helping the team through a tough playoff series, Popeye Jones did have a few moments to be a proud father. His son, Seth, a defenseman, was officially named the No. 1 North American prospect for the National Hockey League draft by the Central Scouting Bureau.
That put the younger Jones, 18, in position to be the first African-American to be hockey’s top overall draft pick.
All three of Jones’ sons took up hockey when he was playing for the Nuggets and the family lived in the Denver suburbs.
“All of the kids played street hockey. When it got cold, all the kids said they were going inside to play ice hockey,” the dad said. “Just being a sports guy, growing up playing basketball, football and baseball, it didn’t matter what sport they played. Sports are meant to be fun.”
Seth quickly became a standout. This season, he led the United States to the World Junior Championship in Russia. His Portland Winterhawks team also is in the playoffs, having made the WHL finals. He is considered a complete player -- good skater, physical defender, hard shooter, solid passer. Popeye thinks the 6-4, 205-pounder could have been a point guard.