NEW YORK (AP) Filip Chytil, Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane scored early and Igor Shesterkin made 28 saves as the New York Rangers beat the hapless Columbus Blue Jackets 6-2 on Tuesday night.
Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck also had goals for the Rangers, who clinched a playoff berth on their day off Monday and then won for the seventh time in eight games. They are 9-1-1 in their last 11 and moved two points behind second-place New Jersey in the Metropolitan Division.
The teams play Thursday night in Newark.
“We generated a lot of offense in the first. You want to keep moving up in the standings,'' Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said. ”We've got a big one coming up on Thursday."
Shesterkin improved to 34-12-7 as the Rangers won for the sixth time in seven home games. They are 14-5-0 in their past 19 at Madison Square Garden.
Chytil opened the scoring 5:23 in with his 22nd goal, with assists to Alexis Lafreniere and K’Andre Miller.
Tarasenko made it 2-0 at 6:50, deflecting a perfect pass from defenseman Braden Schneider past Blue Jackets netminder Michael Hutchinson for his sixth goal since joining the Rangers in a trade from St. Louis on Feb. 9. Tarasenko has points in five of his last seven games and 11 points in his last 13. He has 16 goals overall this season.
Kane increased the lead to 3-0 at the eight-minute mark of the first with his 21st goal this season and fifth since New York acquired him from Chicago on March 1.
“We have a chance to have home ice in the first round,'' Kane said. ”That’s where our mindset is."
It was the first time both high-scoring acquisitions scored in the same game since joining the Rangers. The 34-year-old Kane played 16 seasons for the Blackhawks. Tarasenko, 31, played 11 seasons with the rival Blues.
“Vladdy is a great player,'' Kane said. ”Both of us want to produce. Both of us want to do well here. It's nice to be on the same side with him after being in the same division for all those years and battling against each other.”
Rookie forward Kirill Marchenko put the Blue Jackets on the board at 11:45 of the first with his 20th goal before Johnny Gaudreau narrowed the deficit to 3-2 at 19:31 with his 19th.
Panarin scored his 25th at 17:46 of the second on the power play with assists to Zibanejad and Adam Fox.
Zibanejad added his team-leading 38th goal at 14:27, one-timing a cross-ice pass from Panarin past Hutchinson.
Zibanejad matched his career high with 81 points, equaling last season's total. He became the fourth Rangers player in the past 25 years with consecutive 80-point seasons, joining Panarin, Jaromir Jagr and Wayne Gretzky.
Panarin leads the Rangers with 84 points. Zibanejad has 13 points in his last eight games.
The pair became the third duo in franchise history with consecutive 80-point seasons, joining Rod Gilbert and Steve Vickers (1974-75 and 1975-76) and Gilbert and Jean Ratelle (1971-72 and 1972-73).
Trocheck added an empty-net goal at 16:21 to complete the scoring. Fox and Lafreniere each had two assists.
"They don't need much. They are a dangerous team,'' Columbus coach Brad Larsen said. “Their top three lines are pretty lethal. They made us pay.”
The injury-riddled Blue Jackets played eight rookies against the Rangers: forwards Trey Fix-Wolansky, Liam Foudy, Kent Johnson, Marchenko and Hunter McKown, plus defensemen Tim Berni, Jake Christiansen and Billy Sweezey.
Columbus has the fewest points in the Eastern Conference, while dealing with a rash of injuries to key players. Top defenseman Zach Werenski hasn’t played since November because of a torn labrum, top scorer Patrik Laine is out with a triceps strain and defenseman Erik Gudbranson is sidelined with a separated shoulder.
NOTES: New York was guaranteed its second consecutive playoff berth when Florida and Buffalo lost Monday. The Rangers' 14 playoff appearances since the 2005-06 season are tied for second-most in the NHL. … The Rangers scratched banged-up defenseman Ryan Lindgren. … The Blue Jackets scratched Laine and fellow forward Mathieu Oliver as well as defenseman Nick Blakenburg and goaltender Elvis Merzlikins.
Blue Jackets: At the NHL-leading Boston Bruins on Thursday.
Rangers: Visit the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.
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