Predators 2, Stars 0
NASHVILLE — Pekka Rinne made 28 saves for his fifth shutout of the season, Francis Bouillon scored at 4:28 of the third period, and the Nashville Predators beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 on Thursday night to grab back control of their playoff slot with their third win in four games.
With the win and Detroit losing 2-1 to New Jersey, Nashville moved back into fourth in the Western Conference, a point a head of the Red Wings. Now the Predators need only wrap up the regular season Saturday night at Colorado with a win to start the playoffs at home and finish ahead of Detroit for the first time in franchise history.
Patric Hornqvist had an assist and clinched the win with a goal with 2 minutes left.
The Stars lost their fourth straight in being eliminated. The Stars came in ninth and needed at least a point, but the loss allowed Los Angeles and Phoenix to clinch berths and put San Jose on the verge.
Blue Jackets 5, Avalanche 2
DENVER — Cam Atkinson scored three goals and Steve Mason stopped 35 shots, helping the Columbus Blue Jackets put an end to Colorado's post-season aspirations — and put San Jose in the playoffs — with a 5-2 win over the Avalanche on Thursday night.
Rick Nash added two goals for the suddenly surging Blue Jackets, who have won four of five but are still guaranteed to finish with the worst record in the NHL.
This was a crushing loss for the Avalanche as they were officially eliminated from the playoff picture. As it was, they would've needed help — and lots of it — to crash the party.
David Jones and Paul Stastny scored for a rested Colorado squad that hadn't played in nearly a week.
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEEDS
|1. y-Vancouver Canucks||109||1||42|
|2. y-St. Louis Blues||107||2||44|
|3. z-Los Angeles Kings||94||1||34|
|4. Nashville Predators||102||1||42|
|5. Detroit Red Wings||101||1||39|
|6. Chicago Blackhawks||99||1||38|
|7. San Jose Sharks||94||1||33|
|8. Phoenix Coyotes||93||2||34|
|y = clinched division z = leads division|
Penguins 5, Rangers 2
PITTSBURGH — Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves to tie the Pittsburgh franchise record for wins and the Penguins clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night.
Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang each had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh, which will be the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference for the fourth consecutive season. The Penguins will play the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round.
Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov scored for the Rangers, who were playing for the first time since clinching the top seed in the conference. New York entered the day tied with the Vancouver Canucks with the most points in the NHL (109).
Fleury has 226 career victories, the same Tom Barrasso had for Pittsburgh from 1988-2000. Fleury's 42nd win of the season tied him with the Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne for the league lead.
Tyler Kennedy and Richard Park also scored for the Penguins (50-25-6), who reached 50 wins for the second time in franchise history.
Devils 2, Red Wings 1
DETROIT — Petr Sykora broke a tie with 8:40 left, Alexei Ponikarovsky also had a goal and Martin Brodeur made 23 saves in the New Jersey Devils' 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.
Tomas Holmstrom scored for Detroit, fighting Central Division rivals Nashville and Chicago for home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Jimmy Howard stopped 19 shots.
The Red Wings were coming off a 3-2 shootout win in St. Louis on Wednesday night.
Sykora beat Howard from in front after taking a pass from Patrik Elias. It was Sykora's 20th goal.
Ponikarovsky opened the scoring with 9:47 left in the first period when he put in a rebound for his 14th goal. Holmstrom tied it on a power play 6:13 into the second period. He put Jiri Hudler's cross-crease pass into an empty net for his 11th goal.
Wild 2, Blackhawks 1
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Cal Clutterbuck's tying tip-in with 3:12 left in regulation and Devin Setoguchi's shootout goal lifted the Minnesota Wild to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.
Setoguchi's glove-side shot was the only one that went in during the skills contest. Josh Harding made 22 saves and was unscored upon after midway through the first period when Jamal Mayers gave the Blackhawks an early lead. The Hawks had only two shots on goal over the last 25 minutes of the game, one in the third.
Their struggling special teams didn't help. The Wild gave them four power plays over the first two periods, including a five-minute man-advantage situation, but the Blackhawks didn't score on any of those. Then their penalty kill let in a late goal.
Sharks 6, Kings 5 (SO)
LOS ANGELES — Joe Pavelski scored the only shootout goal, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Kings 6-5 Thursday night to pull even with Los Angeles atop the Pacific Division with two days left in the regular season.
Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe each had a goal and an assist as the Sharks won a phenomenal game between California rivals featuring seven power-play goals, multiple fights and two rough goaltending performances. The game even had a bit of astonishing gamesmanship when Clowe got away with playing the puck from his seat on the San Jose bench late in the third period.
Both teams clinched playoff berths during the game when Dallas and Colorado lost elsewhere, but the Sharks rallied from a late two-goal deficit and then hung on, with Antti Niemi stopping all three Los Angeles shootout tries.
San Jose still has a shot at its fifth consecutive division title when the Sharks and Kings finish the regular season Saturday night at the Shark Tank.