Pavel Buchnevich got himself a pretty good birthday present Saturday afternoon.
Buchenvich and the New York Rangers are hoping to have another gift by the time they take the ice Sunday afternoon.
The Rangers will look to complete a four-game series sweep of the host New Jersey Devils when the longtime rivals complete a back-to-back set Sunday afternoon in Newark, N.J.
The host Rangers once again beat the Devils Saturday afternoon, when Buchnevich became the first player in franchise history to collect a hat trick on his birthday as New York earned a 6-3 win.
The hat trick was the first in the NHL for Buchnevich, who turned 26 Saturday. He is the 14th NHL player to score at least three goals on his birthday and the second in fewer than two weeks. The Nashville Predators’ Viktor Arvidsson had a hat trick on his 28th birthday on April 8.
Buchnevich’s big birthday helped continue an extended roll for the Rangers, who blanked the Devils Tuesday and Thursday and are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. The win Saturday pulled New York within four points of the idle Boston Bruins in the race for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division.
“We’re feeling good,” said Rangers left winger Artemi Panarin, who had a goal and three assists Saturday. “Obviously, we’re winning a lot, but other teams ahead of us are winning as well. We will keep on winning and we need a little help.”
There’s a chance the Rangers will get some before faceoff. The Bruins are scheduled to host the Washington Capitals at noon ET.
“We’re certainly moving in the right direction,” Rangers coach David Quinn said. “We had our hands full today. We’re going to have our hands full again (Sunday). But it’s really good to see that we’ve put ourselves in this position to be playing meaningful hockey.”
Those opportunities are disappearing for the Devils, whose 34 points are tied with the Ottawa Senators for the second-fewest points in the NHL. New Jersey has lost nine of 10 (1-7-2) and is 9-18-5 against the East’s top five teams.
On Saturday, the Devils trailed 1-0 midway through the opening period but gave up a pair of power-play goals — one on a 5-on-3 opportunity — in an 81-second span. They soon fell behind 4-0 before Michael McLeod scored to end a streak of 11 straight goals by the Rangers dating back to Tuesday.
“We came out the way we wanted,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “We had the energy. We were playing the game the right way. But for me, you give that team with that skill a 5-on-3, you’re giving them every opportunity to create some momentum.”
P.K. Subban and Yegor Sharangovich scored within 64 seconds of each other early in the third to pull the Devils within one goal before Buchnevich and Chris Kreider scored empty-netters.
“I thought we had them on the ropes in the third,” Ruff said.
–Field Level Media