New Jersey’s Tomas Tatar watches as Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin protects his net during the second period Thursday night in Newark, N.J. Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. — Erik Haula and Timo Meier scored and Vitek Vanecek made three big third-period saves to lead the New Jersey Devils to a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday night in a feisty matchup between teams that could meet in the first round of the playoffs.

Vanecek finished with 22 saves as the Devils won the season series 3-1 and opened a four-point lead over the Rangers in the Metropolitan Division with two weeks left in the season. He stopped Vincent Trocheck in close twice and Vladimir Tarasenko in the final 12 minutes in picking up his 30th win.

Vanecek got help from defenseman Ryan Graves, who cleared a loose puck in the crease with Tarasenko lurking in the final minute.

Chris Kreider scored his 33rd goal for the Rangers, who lost for the third time in 11 games (8-2-1). Igor Shesterkin maintained his outstanding play, making 29 saves before a sellout crowd at the Prudential Center that rooted for both teams.

PENGUINS 2, PREDATORS 1: Tristan Jarry turned away 27 shots to outduel Juuse Saros and Pittsburgh edged visiting Nashville.

Jason Zucker scored his 26th goal in the second period to give Jarry all the help he would need while earning his 13th career shutout. Jake Guentzel provided some breathing room with a power-play goal in the later stages of the third period.


LIGHTNING 5, CAPITALS 1: Pat Maroon scored twice in the third period, Steven Stamkos had a goal and an assist and host Tampa Bay Lihtning beat slumping Washington.

Stamkos assisted on Alex Killorn’s goal midway through the opening period, then scored his 32nd of the season with 2.8 seconds left to put Tampa Bay up by two.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 saves for the Lightning, who’ve won back-to-back games after losing four in a row.

Craig Smith scored and Darcy Kuemper, playing for the second straight night, made 29 saves for the Capitals. They are 1-4-2 in their past seven games and fell seven points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second wild-card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

PANTHERS 5, CANADIENS 2: Matthew Tkachuk had his fifth career hat trick and one assist to lead Florida to a win at Montreal.

With his second goal, Tkachuk became the fourth player in NHL history to have 100 or more points in consecutive seasons after changing teams in the offseason. He joined Wayne Gretzky (1987-88, 1988-89), Jimmy Carson (1987-88, 1988-89) and Mike Rogers (1980-81, 1981-82) in achieving the feat.

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