NEW YORK (AP) — Pavel Buchnevich gave himself a birthday present and the New York Rangers another much-needed win in their pursuit of the playoffs.
Buchnevich scored his first career hat trick and the streaking Rangers beat the New Jersey Devils 6-3 on Saturday for their third win over their Hudson River rivals in five days.
“Obviously he is a very good player with very big hockey IQ,” said teammate Artemi Panarin, who had a goal and three assists. “I want to wish him a happy birthday, especially he scores a hat trick. He played a huge role in this team defensively, penalty killing, offensively. He is a very important member of this team.”
The 26-year-old Buchnevich has taken major strides in his fifth season. His 19 goals lead the team despite not being on the No. 1 power play unit. He is also killing penalties this season.
“I guess I understand my body better,” Buchnevich said. “I think for every player, it’s tough for a young player to start picking it up right away. Hopefully I keep going and play a better 200-foot game.”
Ryan Strome had a goal and an assist in a three-goal first-period outburst as the Rangers improved to 12-4-3 in their last 19 games.
“It’s really good to see that we’ve put ourselves in this position to be playing meaningful hockey, be four points out of a playoff spot with 12 games to go,” Rangers coach Dave Quinn said. “I mean, anything could happen moving forward here.”
With rookie goaltender Igor Shesterkin going for his third straight shutout, the Rangers took a nap after taking a 4-0 lead.
Michael McLeod broke Shesterkin’a shutout streak at 152 minutes, 37 seconds when he scored in close in the second period. New Jersey then got within 4-3 when P.K. Subban and Yegor Sharangovich scored in a 64-second span in the third period with the teams playing 4-on-4 hockey.
It forced Quinn to take a timeout, and got the Rangers refocused.
After killing off a power play, Buchnevich and Chris Kreider added late empty-net goals to seal the win.
“We created enough opportunities to easily get back in the game,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “I thought we had him on the ropes in the third. And even after the timeout we were still coming at him. We had some opportunities, but we didn’t capitalize.”
The victory extended the Rangers’ point streak to a season-high five games (4-0-1) and pulled them within four points of idle Boston in the race for the last playoff berth in the East. The Bruins have 14 left.
Shesterkin finished with 30 saves. Aaron Dell had 24 saves for the Devils, who have lost five straight and are 1-7-2 in their last 10.
Buchnevich ignited and capped the three-goal opening period. He finished off an odd-man rush with Mika Zibanejad, who had three assists, with a shot into an open net at 7:26. The next two goals came on the power play after Damon Severson was called for holding and New Jersey was called for too many men on the penalty kill. Strome scored from a bad angle on the 5-on-3 segment, and Buchnevich got his second, roofing a shot from between the circles.
Panarin, who now has 301 career assists, made it 4-0 early in the second period on a shot off Dell’s glove.
Then the Devils’ comeback came up just short.
The teams will end the four-game series in New Jersey on Sunday and meet for the final time in the regular season. New York has won the last five and leads the series 5-2.
NOTEBOOK: Rangers have three or more goals in 11 of the last 15 games and in 14 of the last 19. … Devils played without top scorers Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt, who are out with lower body injuries … New Jersey D Matt Tennyson played for first time since Feb. 16. while F Nate Bastian returned after missing 15 games with an injury. … Dell was making his first start since April 8. … Shesterkin had a shutout streak of 199.33 against the Devils, the longest by a Rangers goaltender against one opponent in franchise history. It broke the old mark set by Dave Kerr (198:07 against the Montreal Canadiens during the 1939-40 season).
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