There could be an NHL playoff party in the tri-state area.
The Devils clinched a playoff spot on Friday for the first time in five years after the Rangers defeated the Panthers in regulation.
And Monday, after Florida lost to the Senators in regulation and the Sabres were defeated by the Canadiens, the Rangers punched their postseason ticket for the second straight year.
Beating the Devils on Monday night, in addition to the Panthers’ loss, set the Islanders up for a playoff berth of their own — if they’re able to finish their final seven regular-season games strong.
As long as the Islanders don’t collapse, there’s a solid chance all three tri-state teams will be in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2007.
“I don’t really care about the other two, but as long as we’re there,” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant joked after practice on Monday.
“I think it’s great. The biggest thing that coaches look at is whoever is going to be on those spots, they’re all going to be good hockey teams. Years ago you used to pick one in 16 or one in eight and say, ‘Well, we know who’s going to win that series.’ That doesn’t happen anymore. We just played Carolina back-to-back games, they’re first place in our division and they were two good hockey games. They were two one-goal games and battles.
“You go play — well, we haven’t played the Islanders in a long time, but I think they beat us two out of the three games and they were battles. No matter what team you’re going to play, it’s going to be a battle. Right now, it looks like we’re going to play New Jersey right now. It’s a 35-minute bus ride there and it would be interesting and a lot of fun. Again, I don’t really care who we play, it’s going to be a tough series no matter who you play.”
It would be just the fourth time the Rangers, Devils and Islanders made the playoffs in the same season.
The Rangers, after their 6-2 win over the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night at the Garden, are now just two points behind the Devils in third place in the Metropolitan Division standings. The Rangers and Devils will battle for the No. 2 spot in the division on Thursday night in Newark.
As it stands, the Rangers and Devils are primed to meet in Round 1 of the playoffs. The question now is: Who will have home-ice advantage?
The Islanders are in the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 85 points, which would set them up for a date with the Hurricanes in the first round.
The Penguins lost to the Red Wings on Tuesday night, so they are still three points behind the Islanders.
All three local teams beefed up at the trade deadline. And all three teams are better for it.
The Islanders were the first to make a move when they snagged top center Bo Horvat before acquiring Pierre Engvall.
Horvat has provided more than his 6-5-11 stat line in 23 games suggests, and the 27-year-old snapped an 11-game scoreless streak against the Devils.
Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane came to the Rangers, who are stacking wins with their bolstered lineup, but still don’t seem close to their full potential.
While fourth-line re-addition Tyler Motte has three goals and three assists, Kane has chipped in one more in each category and Tarasenko has five goals and nine assists in 22 games.
The Devils landed Timo Meier on Feb. 26. The Swiss forward has four goals and two assists in 13 contests since.
It has been a while since all three local teams were contending for the Stanley Cup at the same time. This could be one heck of a postseason.
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