Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tuesday's trip around the league

I can't decide which were really the marquee games of the night, so we'll just do an old-school version, but lengthened, with playoff implications.

Stars of the night
--Olli Jokinen and Vinny Prospal had a goal and assist each, Marian Gaborik scored his 40th and the Rangers kept alive their playoff hopes with a 4-3 win over the Islanders. New York sits in 10th place with 78 points.
--Nik Antropov broke a 2-2 tie, and also had an assist, and Maxim Afinogenov had a goal and assist to lead Atlanta over Toronto, 3-2. The Thrashers remained in ninth place, two behind Boston.
--A four-point night from Jason Spezza on two goals and two assists (if tertiary assists existed, he'd have gotten one) and Alexei Kovalev's overtime power play goal gave Ottawa a 5-4 victory at Washington. The Senators have a magic number of one to clinch a playoff spot and trail Buffalo by five in the Northeast Division.
--Rick Nash netted a pair of goals and Columbus all but ended Tampa Bay's season, 3-2. The Lightning are two points from being eliminated from the playoffs.
--Eleven different players registered points as Detroit let a four-goal lead vanish but rebounded for a 5-4 win over Edmonton on Brad Stuart's late goal. The Red Wings are closing in on clinching a playoff spot and trail Nashville by just one, with two games in hand, for fifth place.
--If you want to call yourself a Stanley Cup contender, you have to stop losing to nonplayoff teams, but Chicago isn't doing that. Alexander Steen had two goals and an assist and St. Louis knocked off the Blackhawks, 4-2, handing Chicago its third straight loss, all in regulation. Honestly, the way things are going, I'm not ruling out Detroit overtaking Chicago for the Central Division title. I'm serious. Oh, and the teams meet in the regular season finale. That title could be on the line. As for the Blues, they're six points out with six to play.
--Henrik Sedin had a goal and two assists to extend his league-leading points total to 104 in Vancouver's 4-1 win over Phoenix. The Canucks seem locked into the third seed but have a chance of finishing second. They have a seven-point lead in the Northwest Division.

Clean sheets
--Tuukka Rask stopped 21 shots and Patrice Bergeron scored late in overtime to give Boston a 1-0 victory over New Jersey. The Bruins moved into a three-way tie at 82 points with Philadelphia and Montreal but remained in eighth place. Each team has six games remaining but the Bruins have the fewest wins of the three. The Devils are one point behind Pittsburgh for the Atlantic Division lead. Again both teams have six games left.

--Rookie Jonathan Bernier made 34 saves for his first career shutout as Los Angeles stopped an 0-3-1 stretch with a crucial 2-0 win at Nashville. The Kings, who got goals from Scott Parse and Sean O'Donnell, have 92 points, seven more than No. 9 Calgary.

Stat of the night
1 - Points for Kovalev since the Olympic break, including Tuesday's goal.

Quote of the night
"I liked the end result but the first two periods were a clinic in how not to play -- for both teams."
Columbus interim coach Claude Noel. The teams combined for 23 shots through two periods.

Wednesday's outlook
Seven games on the schedule and each one just about pits a playoff team against a non-playoff team. The one possible exception is Phoenix traveling to Calgary (9:30 p.m. ET), a must-win game for the Flames. Every other game has one team that's on the verge of elimination.

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