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The wait continues: Maple Leafs fail to clinch playoff spot after loss to Bolts

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The Toronto Maple Leafs are still very much in control of their own destiny in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

But a post-season berth with such a young — yet incredibly talented team — isn’t coming easy.

Toronto remains in the final wild card spot in the East, but their lead in the standings now stands at three points after Thursday’s results.

The Maple Leafs had an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot, but instead they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning — which were minus Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson — by a score of 4-1. The New York Islanders shut out the Carolina Hurricanes to also keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

The Leafs, Lightning and Islanders each have two games remaining on their respective schedules.

“You go over and over a foundation of how to play so in the big moments you do what you do, and we didn’t do that,” said Leafs coach Mike Babcock, per Kristen Shilton of TSN.

There were some anxious moments for the Maple Leafs, with Auston Matthews being involved in a knee-on-knee collision.

This result sets up a rather interesting scenario for the weekend.

Despite two straight losses, the Maple Leafs can clinch a playoff spot when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins, and former teammate Phil Kessel, on Saturday. Feel free to take a trip down memory lane with those crazy PHT predictions “that probably won’t happen, but on second thought, you never know” from the start of the season.

The Lightning visit the Canadiens on Friday, while the Islanders face the Devils on Saturday.

Related: Senators clinch playoff spot, move ahead of Bruins

Video: Avalanche rookie Jost scores first NHL goal

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You just know members of Tyson Jost’s family are beaming with pride right now.

The 19-year-old Colorado Avalanche center, signed to an entry-level deal at the end of March, scored his first NHL goal on Thursday versus the Minnesota Wild, beating Devan Dubnyk with a quick wrist shot over the left shoulder.

Jost made his NHL debut on March 31. It was especially heart-warming to see his grandfather in the crowd that night, crying tears of joy as Jost hit the ice for the warm-up.

 

Ducks GM Murray: Cam Fowler could miss 2-6 weeks with knee injury

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Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray provided an update on injured defenseman Cam Fowler prior to Thursday’s game with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Fowler could miss anywhere between two to six weeks with an injury from a knee-on-knee collision with Flames defenseman Mark Giordano on Tuesday. Per Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register, Fowler suffered a sprain on the hit.

A more concrete timeline is expected next week.

“Could come around quickly. We’ll know much more when the playoffs start,” said Murray. “When I saw the hit, your heart goes in your mouth. We may have gotten a little bit of a break.”

He then had this to say about Giordano, who didn’t receive a penalty on the play or supplemental discipline from the league.

“He’s done this before. I have no respect for people who go after knees,” said Murray.

This is a significant development for the Ducks, with the playoffs right around the corner. They are also without Hampus Lindholm (upper-body injury), although it appears he’s getting closer to a return.

The Ducks have a chance to lock up first place in the Pacific Division tonight, as they play the Chicago Blackhawks. Sami Vatanen was also in the Anaheim lineup after missing the last two games.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Ducks in battle of Western Conference powers

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The Anaheim Ducks can clinch top spot in the Pacific Division tonight when they host the Chicago Blackhawks in a meeting of Western Conference powers.

Per the NHL, the Ducks clinch the Pacific if they defeat the Blackhawks in any fashion and the Edmonton Oilers lose to the San Jose Sharks tonight, or if Anaheim gets a single point and the Oilers lose their game in regulation.

You can catch tonight’s clash between the Blackhawks and Ducks on NBCSN (10 p.m. ET) or with NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Ailing Ducks defense could be down Fowler as he undergoes MRI

Selanne: Ducks want Kariya back in fold, but he’s ‘very bitter about hockey’

Blackhawks reach 50 wins for just second time in franchise history

Oilers lose ground in Pacific Division race after loss to Kings

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The Anaheim Ducks won on Tuesday. The Edmonton Oilers did not.

And that has put the Ducks four points up on the Oilers for the Pacific Division lead in the final week of the regular season. Edmonton still has a game in hand.

While the Ducks were involved in a nasty contest with the Calgary Flames, the Oilers were on the wrong end of a 6-4 result against the L.A. Kings.

The Kings struggled down the stretch drive to score goals and that problem ultimately cost them a playoff spot. But against the Oilers, they suddenly erupted offensively, erasing a two-goal deficit and then completely taking over in the third period.

“We just weren’t as sound as we normally are… You don’t win any games giving up six goals,” said Mark Letestu.

“Nobody’s not trying, it’s just a matter of cleaning things up and I’m pretty confident in this group that’s going to happen,” added Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who scored a beautiful goal for his second of the night and 18th of the season.

The Oilers play the San Jose Sharks on Thursday. They wrap up their schedule with a home-and-home series against the Canucks over the weekend.