Ottawa, ON (SportsNetwork.com) – The clock finally struck midnight for Andrew Hammond.
The New York Rangers scored five times on the Ottawa Senators’ red-hot goaltender in just two periods of play en route to a 5-1 rout that gave Hammond his first regulation loss in the rookie’s 16th career NHL start.
Thursday’s result, combined with Boston’s overtime loss to Anaheim, also clinched a playoff berth for the Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers.
Ottawa had vaulted itself into postseason contention as well due to the surprisingly stellar play of Hammond, who entered Thursday’s showdown having gone a sensational 14-0-1 with a 1.58 GAA in 15 outings filling in for the injured duo of Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner.
He was burned for five goals on 22 shots, however, before being removed in favor of Chris Driedger late in the second period.
“They came in and did exactly what they wanted to do,” Hammond said afterward. “If you’re not ready to play, you’re going to get exposed, and I thought we did tonight.”
Chris Kreider led the Rangers’ barrage with two goals and an assist. Mats Zuccarello and Dan Boyle each scored once and assisted on another, while Derek Stepan and Kevin Hayes notched a pair of helpers for New York.
“We probably caught their goaltender on an off night there a little bit, and we were able to capitalize early,” said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. “We were able to take it home and get two points to clinch a playoff spot. That was our first goal. Now we’ve clinched and we’re going to try and work for home-ice advantage.”
Cam Talbot stopped 23-of-24 chances for the Rangers, yielding only Curtis Lazar’s first-period score.
After Kreider and Lazar traded goals 19 seconds apart in the game’s 13th minute, the Rangers dominated the rest of the first period and the entire second to put the contest out of reach and send Hammond to an early exit.
Boyle sent New York ahead by jumping into a rush and receiving an on-target pass from Rick Nash before firing a shot over Hammond’s glove with 5:20 remaining in the opening session.
The Rangers took a 3-1 lead into the intermission after Kreider crashed the net to jam in the rebound of Stepan’s wrister that Hammond got a piece of but wasn’t able to control.
“It’s visibly noticeable when (he’s) going the way he is going,” said Stepan of Kreider. “He’s all over pucks. He’s the fastest guy on the ice. He’s playing a real strong game. I thought he did a really good job tonight of doing that early.”
New York kept up the attack after the break, with Zuccarello’s quick one- timer off a Hayes give during a 2-on-1 further extending the margin 1:42 into the second period.
Even fourth-liner Tanner Glass got into the act for the Rangers, scoring his first of the season after receiving the puck in the Ottawa zone as he skated out of the penalty box and launching it past Hammond 3:58 prior to the second intermission.
Hammond, seeking to tie Patrick Lalime’s NHL record of earning a point in 16 straight games to begin a career, was on the bench shortly after Glass’ tally. Driedger turned away all 10 chances he faced thereafter in his NHL debut.
Kreider won a race to a puck sent off the boards by Stepan and beat Hammond stick-side with 7:22 left in the first to give New York a 1-0 edge. The lead was short-lived, as Lazar fought off a check in the Rangers zone and sent a wrister through Talbot’s pads just moments later.
Lalime went 14-0-2 over his first 16 starts with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1996-97 … Glass had gone 84 games since his last goal, which came with Pittsburgh at Los Angeles on Jan. 30, 2014 … The Rangers haven’t lost back- to-back games in regulation since Jan. 27-29 … Ottawa failed to score on all six of its power-play chances … Hayes has recorded five assists and six points over his last four games.