NEW YORK — Pavel Buchnevich scored his first NHL hat trick on his 26th birthday and the New York Rangers defeated the New Jersey Devils for the third time this week, 6-3 at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
Artemi Panarin scored four points (one goal, three assists), Mika Zibanejad had three assists and Igor Shesterkin made 30 saves for the Rangers (22-16-6), who also defeated the Devils 3-0 at Prudential Center on Tuesday and 4-0 at the Garden on Thursday.
The Rangers are fifth in the eight-team MassMutual East Division, four points behind the fourth-place Boston Bruins, who have two games in hand. The top four teams in the division will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Devils (14-23-6) tried to rally from 4-0 down with goals Michael McLeod, P.K. Subban and Yegor Sharangovich, but couldn’t get even and lost their fifth game in a row in regulation. Aaron Dell made 24 saves.
The teams will play for the fourth straight time at Prudential Center on Sunday.
Buchnevich gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 7:26 of the first period, scoring off a 2-on-1 with Zibanejad.
Ryan Strome (one goal, two assists) made it 2-0 with a 5-on-3 power-play goal at 10:29 and Buchnevich scored a power-play goal 1:19 later to give New York a 3-0 lead.
Panarin extended the lead to 4-0 at 32 seconds of the second period.
McLeod’s goal at 12:37 of the second made it 4-1 and ended Shesterkin’s shutout streak at 152:37. It also ended his shutout streak against the Devils at 199:23, which established the longest shutout streak by a Rangers goalie against a single opponent.
Subban made it 4-2 with a slap shot from the top of the right circle at 5:34 of the third period. Sharangovich made it 4-3 at 6:38.
Buchnevich completed his hat trick with an empty-net goal at 18:39 to make it 5-3. Chris Kreider also scored an empty-net goal at 19:38 for the 6-3 final.
He is the first Rangers player to score a hat trick on his birthday.