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Rangers will take on Capitals in first round of 2024 NHL playoffs

None of it matters anymore.

Not the Rangers’ first Presidents’ Trophy since 2014-15.

Not their clean sweep of the Metro Division and Eastern Conference.

The Rangers will take on the Capitals in the NHL playoffs.
The Rangers will take on the Capitals in the NHL playoffs. Jason Szenes for New York Post

Not any of the individual brilliance by Artemi Panarin or any of their other stars in what was a record-breaking regular season.

Now, all that matters are the Capitals.

The Rangers finally learned that the Capitals will be their first-round playoff opponent after the Caps’ 2-1 win over the Flyers on Tuesday night.

It brought a long-awaited answer to one of the most wide-open races for the final wild-card spot in recent memory.

The Capitals entered the final minutes of Tuesday’s clash tied 1-1, but T.J. Oshie’s empty-net goal, as the Flyers would have been eliminated from contention if they let the Capitals reach overtime, with three minutes left in the game secured Washington’s postseason berth.

So it’s the Rangers and Capitals running it back in the playoffs for the latest chapter of their rivalry.

The Rangers recorded a 2-2-0 record against the Capitals this season, though the goal difference in the four matchups was even at 9-9.

Rangers forward Chris Kreider chases down Capitals defenseman Martin Fehervary during a game earlier this season.
Rangers forward Chris Kreider chases down Capitals defenseman Martin Fehervary during a game earlier this season. Robert Sabo for New York Post

Washington overcame a six-game losing streak near the end of the season by winning four of its last five games to grab the last playoff spot.

The teams last matched up in the postseason in 2014-15, when the Rangers beat the Capitals in seven games in the second round before falling to the Lightning in the conference finals.

Before that, the Rangers eliminated the Capitals in seven games in the first round of the 2012-13 playoffs.

So in recent postseason history, the upper hand goes to the Rangers.

The Capitals, of course, still roster controversial forward Tom Wilson, who has long been a Rangers antagonist.

During a May 3, 2021 clash between the teams, Wilson cross-checked former Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich in the back of the head.

When Artemi Panarin subsequently went at Wilson for the hit, Wilson slammed the helmet-less Panarin onto the ice, knocking him out for the rest of the season.

But the NHL only gave Wilson a $5,000 fine and didn’t suspend him, which prompted the Rangers to issue one of the strongest statements in franchise history, in which they called for NHL head of player safety George Parros to be fired.

“The New York Rangers are extremely disappointed that Capitals forward Tom Wilson was not suspended for his horrifying act of violence last night at Madison Square Garden,” the Rangers said in the statement. “Wilson is a repeat offender with a long history of these types of acts and we find it shocking that the NHL and their department of player safety failed to take the appropriate action and suspend him indefinitely. Wilson’s dangerous and reckless actions caused an injury to Artemi Panarin that will prevent him from playing again this season. We view this is a dereliction of duty by NHL head of player safety, George Parros, and believe he is unfit to continue in his current role.”

The Rangers were subsequently fined $250,000 by the league for the statement.

Now, the bad blood will certainly be rejuvenated.

Beyond the animosity with Wilson, the Rangers have other connections to the Capitals.

Head coach Peter Laviolette coached the Capitals for three seasons from 2020-23 before the team fired him and he subsequently accepted the Rangers job.

And Rangers defenseman Ryan Lindgren’s brother, Charlie, is the Capitals’ starting goalie.

So, these teams certainly know each other. And there’s plenty of history between the franchises.

Buckle up.

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