James O'Brien

Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby (70) reacts after a goal by Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Conor Sheary in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP

Penguins clinch round of home-ice advantage, keep Holtby at 47 wins

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are finishing the 2015-16 season on an astounding pace, and their reward is at least one round of home-ice advantage.

They clinched as much merely by grabbing a point against the Washington Capitals, yet Sidney Crosby‘s overtime goal grabbed Pittsburgh a 4-3 overtime win.

With that, Braden Holtby stays at 47 wins this season, one short of tying Martin Brodeur’s single-season record.

This could very well ruin Holtby’s chances of eclipsing Brodeur:

Now, the question is, who will the Penguins face in the first round? The New York Islanders completed their first-ever season sweep of the New York Rangers on Thursday, and took the third seed in the Metropolitan Division in the process.

At least for now.

How Bruins, Red Wings and Flyers can make playoffs after thrilling Thursday

Philadelphia Flyers left wing Jakub Voracek (93) tries pulling away from Detroit Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey (27) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
AP
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There aren’t many certainties, it seems, when it comes to the three-team race for the Eastern Conference’s two unresolved playoff spots.

That said, it seems like we can count on the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers to at least keep things interesting.

As you can see here, the Bruins thwarted the Red Wings’ attempt to clinch yet another playoff berth on Thursday. It seems like everything was coming up Millhouse for the Bruins with the Flyers trailing the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs heading into the third period of that game … but it couldn’t be that simple, could it?

Nope, instead, the Flyers managed to force the game into overtime before falling 4-3 in OT to Toronto.

Fittingly, Wayne Simmonds scored his 30th goal at an opportune time for Philly:

So, you might wonder how things look. First, the standings view:

eastwildthreeraceapril7
via NHL.com

OK, now let’s roll out the clinching scenarios for each team.

For the Flyers: They can clinch a spot by winning their two remaining games.

For the Red Wings: Can clinch by beating the New York Rangers in regulation or overtime.

For the Bruins: Can clinch with any kind of win against the Ottawa Senators AND any kind of loss for the Red Wings.

Also:

As you can see, the Red Wings and Flyers can “control their destiny” while Bruins will need a little help.

Of course, there are some other scenarios depending upon wins and losses, especially beyond regulation … but the simpler version is to win.

Drama brewing: Bruins secure crucial win against Red Wings

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After wobbling in a worrisome way toward the end of the season, the Boston Bruins are showing some fight.

The B’s thwarted the Detroit Red Wings’ attempt to clinch a 25th consecutive playoff berth on Thursday, and the Bruins did so with aplomb by winning 5-2.

It wasn’t merely a tough night for Jimmy Howard, though he did get the hook in this game. Instead, it was a great all-around effort by the Bruins, who started strong and only allowed the Red Wings to register 15 shots on goal.

There were definitely some quick strikes in the Bruins’ favor, making the game a little less dramatic than it seemed on paper.

The Bruins finish the season with a home game against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday while the Red Wings wrap up against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on that same day. Each team has 93 points … and we’ll see how that all compares to the Philadelphia Flyers in mere moments.

If nothing else, the Bruins turned up the heat on the other teams they’re struggling with.

Jonathan Drouin scores, Lightning secure round of home-ice advantage

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Every now and then, a storyline just comes together.

Granted, the prodigal son story of Jonathan Drouin returning to the Tampa Bay Lightning has the potential to make bigger waves than a single goal happening – at least if things are ideal for the Lightning, Drouin and Drouin’s reps – but hey … this is a start.

In his first game back with the big club, Drouin scored the 3-1 goal against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

For those counting, this is his first game with the Lightning since Dec. 30 and the first goal he’s scored for the Bolts since he had a one-goal, one-assist night on Dec. 2.

The Devils just made it 3-2, so that tally could be quite important.

Update: Yes, it ended up being the game-winner, with the Bolts icing it via a 4-2 empty-netter. The Lightning clinch the second seed in the Atlantic, so they’ll enjoy at least one round of home-ice advantage.

Remember these mistakes if Flyers fall short of a playoff berth

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If tonight’s Red Wings – Bruins and Maple Leafs – Flyers games continue down their current paths, Thursday could stand as a night of serious regret for the Philadelphia Flyers.

It’s bad enough that the Boston Bruins are off to a strong start. As sporadically scrappy as the Toronto Maple Leafs may be, the Flyers could really kick themselves if they fail to erase what is a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

It probably stings a little extra that they may also look back at some gaffes on two or more of the Buds’ goals.

Arguably the worst came in the video above, but this tally wasn’t pretty for the Flyers, either:

You can see it in that video, but it’s possible that William Nylander‘s goal might be in part based on a mistake by Claude Giroux … and really all three Leafs goals present issues:

The Flyers still have time to fix things, whether it means storming back tonight or hoping they get the right breaks to close things out.