<span class="vcard">James O'Brien</span>

Pittsburgh Penguins v Buffalo Sabres

Smooth like Sutter: Penguins clinch spot, boot Bruins from playoffs

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With the Pittsburgh Penguins’ season on the line, one would expect Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby to take over against the Buffalo Sabres. Instead, it was Brandon Sutter.

His two goals powered a huge 2-0 win for Pittsburgh, who clinched a playoff spot while eliminating the Boston Bruins in the process. With this, all 16 postseason teams have been accounted for as the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs approach.

The Penguins let out a big sigh of relief when Sutter scored the 1-0 goal. His second tally might have been more impressive in a way, as he returned to the ice after taking a shot to the face to put in a big insurance tally.

It was tense at times for the Penguins, as the Sabres stuck with them even as Pittsburgh steadily out-shot them. One assumes that more than a few Pittsburgh fans had a “here we go again” feeling about a nice set of chances amounting to nothing, but Buffalo couldn’t put up much of an attack. Marc-Andre Fleury ended one of his better individual seasons with his 34th win.

To some extent, it felt like the Penguins carried an air of fatigue – only have five defensemen dressed is a succinct reminder of their issues – yet they’re likely glad to avoid a premature vacation. It’s easy to forget that the Penguins just continued quite the run of success because it was so close to falling through:

The Bruins would surely beg for the Penguins problems right now. Instead, they’ll miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

Around the Internet, people are really giving it to the Bruins for putting first-round playoff tickets on sale in late March. Ouch.

Update: The Bruins fell 3-2 via a shootout against the Lightning in a game that became increasingly irrelevant for both teams.

Momentary relief: Sutter gives Penguins 1-0 lead

San Jose Sharks v Pittsburgh Penguins
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As of this writing, the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning traded goals in a high-stakes game on NBCSN. It remains to be seen if Boston will be able to control its destiny, however, as the Pittsburgh Penguins will enter the third period against the Buffalo Sabres with a 1-0 lead.

Brandon Sutter’s 20th goal might not be of the highlight reel variety, but it was a work of art for anxious Penguins fans:

If that ends up being Sutter’s fourth game-winner of the season, the Penguins will clinch a playoff berth and boot Boston. A lot can change in the meantime, though.

Advantage: Andersen? Ducks’ Gibson deals with injury

John Gibson
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The situation seems almost eerily familiar: the Anaheim Ducks have one of the best records in the NHL, yet they lack an obvious starting goalie. An injury might just make the decision for Bruce Boudreau, however.

John Gibson appears to be injured, which could give quite the advantage to Frederik Andersen, at least early on. Gibson (pictured) may have been injured during a Friday practice, the OC Register reports:

The Ducks are saying little about it at this point but Gibson may have been hurt during their practice Friday morning at Anaheim Ice before traveling to Phoenix.

There’s a chance that Andersen would have been the No. 1 guy anyway. There’s also the chance that Gibson won’t miss a single postseason game.

Still, it’s hard to deny the impression that Andersen gets the edge for now. If Ducks’ history repeats, we may just see both young goalies (or possibly veteran call-up Jason LaBarbera) before this coming postseason concludes.

Update: The Ducks made LaBarbera’s recall official.

WATCH LIVE: Bruins at Lightning (plus tonight’s scenarios)

Niklas Svedberg, Matt Bartkowski
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The Boston Bruins can’t guarantee themselves a playoff berth with a win alone, but they can at least say that they did everything they could – Saturday specifically – if they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tampa Bay would probably be a tough draw even if the Bolts were in take-it-easy mode, but with the Atlantic Division crown within somewhat realistic reach, they’re likely to give Boston a big fight. You can watch the game on NBCSN and also stream it online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

To save hockey fans a click, here are tonight’s updated postseason scenarios via the NHL:

* The Penguins would clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Sabres in any fashion OR if they get one point against the Sabres AND either the Senators lose to the Flyers in regulation or the Bruins fail to defeat the Lightning in regulation or overtime OR if the Bruins lose to the Lightning in any fashion.

* The Bruins would clinch a playoff berth if they defeat the Lightning in any fashion AND either the Senators or Penguins lose in regulation. If the Bruins defeat the Lightning in regulation or overtime, they would qualify with either a Senators regulation loss or Penguins loss in any fashion.

* The Canadiens would clinch the Atlantic Division title if they get at least one point against the Maple Leafs OR if the Lightning lose to the Bruins in any fashion.

* The Lightning would clinch the Atlantic Division title if they defeat the Bruins in any fashion AND the Canadiens lose to the Maple Leafs in regulation.

* The Red Wings would clinch the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic Division if they get at least one point against the Hurricanes.

* The Rangers, who are locked in as the top seed in the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference, will face the No. 2 wild card in the First Round, either the Red Wings, Senators, Penguins or Bruins.

* The Islanders would clinch the No. 2 seed in the Metropolitan Division if they defeat the Blue Jackets in regulation or overtime OR if they defeat the Blue Jackets in a shootout.

That blurb above doesn’t include West considerations. In case you’re wondering, the St. Louis Blues grab the West’s top seed if the Anaheim Ducks don’t win in regulation. The top seed gets the Winnipeg Jets while the second division winner faces the Minnesota Wild.

Robyn Regehr probably played his last NHL game on Saturday

Robyn Regehr, James Sheppard
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Los Angeles Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr announced his retirement following Saturday’s season-closing 4-1 win against the San Jose Sharks, according to multiple reporters.

(OK, the word “likely” crept into some of those accounts, so consider it a retirement announcement with some wiggle room.)

Regehr goes out a winner in many ways, most obviously with today’s victory. Most importantly, he grabbed a Stanley Cup ring during the Kings’ 2014 championship run.

Overall, the 34-year-old managed to appear in 1,089 regular season games and 67 postseason contests. That’s impressive by any standards, yet it’s that much more of an achievement when you ponder the fact that his career was in great danger of being cut short by a car accident. Regehr is a physical defenseman, so it’s remarkable that he recovered from that scary scene and enjoyed a lengthy career.

(Many remember him as much for his part in the Calgary Flames’ run to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final than anything else.)

If this really is it for Regehr, it sounds like the decision has been in the works for some time.

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Here are highlights of the Kings’ 4-1 win against the Sharks, by the way: