Rangers try to claim playoff spot vs. Staal-filled 'Canes

The New York Rangers will hope to put a disappointing performance behind them as they try to clinch a playoff spot in Thursday's road game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Rangers needed a win against the NHL-worst Florida Panthers on Tuesday and a regulation loss by Winnipeg in Washington to secure their seventh playoff spot in eight years. The Jets did their part with a 5-3 setback in D.C., but New York lost a 3-2 regulation decision in Florida.

The Blueshirts enter Thursday tied with Ottawa at 52 points for the last two playoff spots in the East and ninth-seeded Winnipeg is one point back.

New York has two games left and will close the regular season in Saturday's home test against New Jersey, while Winnipeg has one game remaining -- Thursday's home tilt versus Montreal. Any combination of points gained by the Rangers or lost by the Jets totaling two would land New York in the postseason.

The Senators, who play Thursday in D.C., have three games left on their schedule.

New York fired 38 shots at Florida goaltender Jacob Markstrom, but he turned aside 36 of them to lead the Panthers to the win.

Markstrom outdueled reigning Vezina Trophy recipient Henrik Lundqvist and helped the Panthers to halt a six-game losing streak. Marcel Goc netted the go-ahead goal on the power play in the third period for Florida.

Lundqvist stopped only 13-of-15 shots for New York, which came in having won three in a row that included a 6-1 rout of the Panthers last Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

"Our goal and our focus right now is just to get in and I don't care how we do it," Lundqvist said. "I don't mind getting help. That's always a good thing. Let's just focus on the next one and see where that takes us."

Taylor Pyatt and Derick Brassard each scored in the third period for the Rangers, with Brassard's coming with 32.9 seconds left.

The Rangers fell to 9-12-2 as the road team this season.

New York has won seven straight in the series against the Hurricanes and have claimed four in a row and six of the last seven meetings in Raleigh.

The Hurricanes are headed for a fourth straight year out of the playoffs, but the team has won its last two games. Carolina recorded a 4-3 shootout win over the visiting New York Islanders on Tuesday, but the visitors were still able to clinch a playoff spot thanks to the point and the regulation loss by the Jets.

Riley Nash and Jeff Skinner both scored in the first two rounds of the shootout to lead the Hurricanes past the Isles. Dan Ellis made 36 saves for the win.

"We're starting to find our identity, and that's important going into next year," Ellis said.

The Hurricanes recalled Jared Staal from their AHL affiliate in Charlotte on Wednesday and that roster move is expected to set up a bit of history in Thursday's game. Staal, a fourth-round pick by Phoenix in 2008, is expected to make his NHL debut, joining brothers Eric and Jordan on Carolina's roster for tonight and becoming the fourth trio of brothers to play for the same team in the same season in NHL history.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Staals could become the first three brothers to play together since the 1984-85 season, when Peter, Anton and Marian Stastny all skated for the Quebec Nordiques.

"With where we're at in the season, there are going to be different guys that get different looks and chances," Eric said. "The more [Staals], the merrier."

The fourth NHL-playing Staal brother, Marc, is a defenseman for the Rangers, but he is out indefinitely after getting hit in the eye with a puck in early March.