There were 7 games outside of the Battle of Ontario on Saturday, where the top two teams in the Northeast continued to struggle, while two Canadian teams punched their ticket to the post-season dance. Here is a quick tour around the league:
- Jussi Jokinen had a goal and two assists and Pittsburgh handed the Bruins their 4th straight loss, 3-2. Jarome Iginla and Kris Letang also scored for the Penguins, who clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Iginla was jeered all afternoon after having snubbed a trade to the Bruins in favor of the Penguins at the trade deadline. Iginla also fought Nathan Horton, who left the game and did not return. Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin scored for Boston, both set up by Zdeno Chara. Tomas Vokoun made 38 saves to get the win for the Penguins.
- New Jersey won their second straight game but it might be too little, too late as they dominated the Panthers 6-2, despite falling behind 2-0 early on. After Marcel Goc and Brian Campbell had staked Florida to the early lead, Patrik Elias scored late in the first and early in the second to tie it up. David Clarkson, Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta added goals in the second and Dainius Zubrus capped it off in the third period. The recent 10 game losing streak was probably too much to overcome, as the Devils would have to run the table and get a lot of help in order to make it to the post-season.
- In one of the day’s most entertaining games, the Islanders moved into 6th place on the East with a 5-4 shootout win over the Jets. Frans Nielsen, Josh Bailey, Matt Martin and Michael Grabner scored for the Islanders in regulation, with Brad Boyes and John Tavares scoring in the shootout for the win. Winnipeg got a point on the strength of 2 Kyle Wellwood goals, along with Zach Bogosian and Brian Little’s power play goal with 2:01 remaining and Ondrej Pavelec pulled for an extra attacker. The Islanders jumped over the Senators, while the Jets moved within a point of the Rangers for 8th place in the East.
- Montreal lost for the 4th time in their last 5 games, as the Capitals skated away with a 5-1 win. Alex Ovechkin scored twice, including his 30th of the year, with Troy Brouwer also scoring twice and Nicklas Backstrom once to pace the Capitals. Max Pacioretty broke Braden Holtby‘s shutout bid with just over 5 minutes left. Holtby made 35 saves while his counterpart Carey Price stopped just 20 of 25 shots. The Capitals move 3 points up on the Jets for the Southeast lead, while the Canadiens failed to create more separation from the Bruins for the top spot in the Northeast.
- Wayne Simmonds had the hat trick and added an assists in Philadelphia’s 5-3 win over the Hurricanes. Jakub Voracek and Matt Read also scored for the Flyers, with Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk and Eric Staal replying for Carolina.
- Phoenix kept their playoff hopes alive with a 3-2 shootout win over the Blackhawks. David Schlemko scored the shootout winner for the Coyotes, who got goals from Rostislav Klesla and Radim Vrbata while Brent Seabrook scored both Chicago goals. Phoenix sits 3 points back of Columbus with 4 games to play and 3 teams to pass, so it is unlikely that they will qualify, but the hope remains.
- Vancouver clinched a playoff spot and damaged the Red Wings’ chances at the same time with a 2-1 shootout win. All the scoring was done in the first period, with Alexander Edler scoring on the power play and Cory Emmerton deflecting home a shot in the final minute of the frame. Maxim Lapierre was the shootout hero, as he was the only shooter to find the back of the net, clinching the win for the Canucks despite putting only 14 shots on Jimmy Howard. Detroit trails Columbus by a point for 8th, while they do have a game in hand. They also move a point ahead of the Stars.
That concludes our daily tour around the NHL. Sunday has two huge matchups, with the Devils playing the Rangers and the Stars visiting the Kings. The Devils can help the Senators as well as their own cause with a regulation win, while the Stars can take over 8th with a win in regulation or overtime.