Rangers view chance at division title, Presidents’ Trophy as ‘best way’ to end season

If they finish tied in points, the Hurricanes will clinch first because they will have more regulation wins, which is the first tiebreaker.

“You’ve seen teams in the past and I’ve been part of teams like that when you don’t really have much to play for the last game, let alone the last two weeks of the season,” Rangers center Mika Zibanejad said. “It kind of puts you in a lull, although you’re trying to tell yourself you want to stay ready. You want to stay motivated. To have a meaningful game tonight, it’s going to be a tough challenge and we’ve got to be ready.”

Coach Peter Laviolette has been consistent in his messaging since the Rangers clinched a playoff berth, always talking about game being its own entity and if they keep focusing on getting the two points available to them on that night, good things will happen. He said he stopped practice Monday morning to hold a brief team meeting at center ice to discuss exactly that, because the messaging doesn’t change even though the last two points on the line can lock it all up for them.

“I think everybody in New York knows exactly what’s on the line tonight, certainly the players in the room do,” Laviolette said. “My point is we’ll try to focus to make sure we play the game the right way. [The Senators] are fast, they’re physical, they have talent and they’re dangerous offensively. It won’t be an easy game. We have to make sure we’re ready to work the game the right way and if we do that, boxes get checked.”

Panarin could check a box too. He is two goals from scoring 50 for the first time in the NHL. He admitted that it matters to him, though maybe not as much as the last time he had something big on the line in the last game of a regular season.

“It’s like when I was in Chicago [in 2015-16], the last game and that game was really important to know if I’d be in the top 10 [in points] or not because then it’s making bonuses,” Panarin said. “That was $2.5 million. I’m not a money guy who thinks every day about that, but when you know you’re 60 minutes away from a million and a half after taxes, I couldn’t nap, I had dollars signs in my eyes. I can’t say this is the same thing, but it would be pretty nice.”

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