It may have taken the shootout to make it happen, but the Western Conference playoff field is set. The Colorado Avalanche locked down the final spot in the West by knocking down the eventual #3 seed Vancouver in the shootout 4-3 courtesy of a sweet goal from rookie Matt Duchene. The Avs were in a position to lock it down thanks to the Calgary Flames falling to the San Jose Sharks 2-1. Rene Bourque scored the lone goal for the Flames as slumping captain Jarome Iginla was held off the scoresheet notching only three shots on goal in the loss.
As for the distant followers in the West, Anaheim did have a 4-2 lead on the Kings going into the third but ultimately gagged that away as the Kings bullied their way, temporarily, into the #6 seed in the west thanks to third period goals from Justin Williams and Michal Handzus. It took the shootout and another highlight reel goal, this time from Anze Kopitar, to put down the Ducks.
In the East, the New York Rangers shot themselves in the foot losing a stinker of a game to the Sabres 5-2. The Sabres win helps keep them in the running for the #2 seed in the East. Also chasing the two seed are the Devils who snuffed out the Thrashers and their playoff hopes 3-0 behind Martin Brodeur’s 600th win and 110th career shutout.
The Flyers helped themselves out in a big way thanks to goaltender Brian Boucher’s 23-save shutout of the Maple Leafs in their 2-0 win. Montreal didn’t do themselves any favors losing to the Islanders 4-3 in a shootout but stay in sixth in the East one point ahead of Philadelphia and two points ahead of eighth place Boston.
The Rangers are in big trouble sitting three points back of the Bruins but control their destiny as winning out their final three games would put them in the playoffs. They’ll need to beat Toronto tomorrow night and then Philadelphia twice to get in. Talk about your tall orders in the frenetic and mostly inept Eastern Conference.