Red Wings clinch playoff spot for 25th straight season
Flyers also secure post-season berth on final Saturday; Stars clinch Central
Despite ending the regular season with consecutive losses, the Detroit Red Wings found a way to extend their remarkable playoff streak.
Kevin Hayes scored with 5:38 remaining, Antti Raanta made 31 saves and the New York Rangers defeated the Red Wings 3-2 on Saturday.
Even with the loss, the Red Wings reached the playoffs for a 25th consecutive season when the Ottawa Senators beat the Boston Bruins 6-1. Detroit clinched third place in the Atlantic Division and will play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.
"It's great," first-year Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "Our goal at the beginning of the season is to win the Stanley Cup, and to do that then, our immediate goal then was to find a way to earn a way into the Stanley Cup playoffs."
"It feels good," Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said of making the post-season again. "We had good chances to really find the back of the net, but we just have to send a thanks to Ottawa. They showed up in Boston and played a good game."
Dan Boyle scored in the first period for the Rangers, who finished the regular season with 101 points and still don't know who they will meet in the playoffs, which start Wednesday.
With the win Saturday, the Rangers have a chance to finish in third place in the Metropolitan Division, in which case they would play the Pittsburgh Penguins. If they remain the first wild card in the Eastern Conference, they would play the Florida Panthers. Either series would start on the road.
"You want to go in there feeling good about yourself and at the end of the day you don't pick who you play," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Whoever it's going to be, it's between Pittsburgh and Florida. Whoever's there we'll be ready for it and we'll compete hard."
Flyers get final playoff spot
Wayne Simmonds scored two goals, Steve Mason stopped 18 shots and the hometown Philadelphia Flyers beat the playoff-bound Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 on Saturday to earn the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Flyers' win eliminated Boston, which lost to Ottawa 6-1 earlier in the day. The Bruins lost a tiebreaker to Detroit.
Philadelphia will meet top-seeded Washington in the first round. The Penguins, who are the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, will play the Rangers or Islanders.
"It's just the beginning for us," Philadelphia's Jakub Voracek said. "We can't be satisfied. We have a good enough team to beat Washington and we have to focus on that."
Pittsburgh rested Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang and played without Evgeni Malkin for the 15th consecutive game because of an upper-body injury.
Penguins goaltender Matt Murray was injured in a collision with Brayden Schenn and left the game in the first period. Murray has started five straight games because Marc-Andre Fleury is out with a concussion. Coach Mike Sullivan said Murray will be evaluated on Monday.
"We regret that he got hurt," Sullivan said. "When you play hockey, you always run that risk. We felt like we made the best decisions for our hockey team that were going to put us in a position to move forward."
Murray's mask flew off when Schenn banged into him, but he made the save on the backhander. Jeff Zatkoff replaced Murray for his first appearance since Feb. 20 and allowed a goal on the first shot he faced.
Stars win Central
Jason Spezza scored three times, including the game-winner with one minute remaining, and the Dallas Stars beat the Nashville Predators 3-2 to clinch the Central Division title and the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Spezza's second of two goals in the second period was No. 300 for his career. It was his second hat trick of the season and the seventh of his career.
Dallas (50-23-9) will open the playoffs against Minnesota following its first division title since the 2005-06 season. The Stars finished with the most points in the West for the first time since 2002-03.
Coming into the day, Dallas was tied with St. Louis for the Central lead. The Blues lost 5-1 to NHL-leading Washington.
Nashville's first-round opponent will be the Pacific Division champion, either Los Angeles or Anaheim.