James O'Brien

Senators win, but so does just about everyone else in East’s bubble

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The good news for the Ottawa Senators is that they avoided total embarrassment against the Washington Capitals on Saturday, winning 4-3 in OT after giving up a three-goal lead. The bad news is that they didn’t really gain significant ground in the Eastern Conference’s playoff race.

With the Florida Panthers now crossed off the list, the Senators are the only team that could knock one of the current top eight out of the postseason. Here’s a quick look at what happened:

Again, Florida’s out after Tampa Bay trounced them

Red Wings 3, Wild 2 (SO)

Detroit fought toe-to-toe with Minnesota (a team in a very similar predicament) and ultimately managed a shootout victory.

(If you don’t like shootouts, this post will make you shudder.)

Senators 4, Capitals 3 (OT)

It seemed like it would be a cakewalk for Ottawa when they took advantage of some 5-on-3 advantages to build a 3-0 lead, but it instead was a nail-biter. Kyle Turris’ OT winner salvaged a win, but Washington made its position in the playoffs – if not the Metropolitan’s third spot -that much more secure.

Really, though, that Turris goal was something.

Islanders 3, Sabres 0

Bruins 2, Maple Leafs 1 (SO)

The Penguins also coughed up a lead and lost to the Blue Jackets

James Reimer was very close to stealing a win for the spoils-seeking Maple Leafs, but the Bruins managed to wipe the sweat off their brows and gain a (you guessed it) shootout victory.

Pretty zany stuff, huh? And, yes, shootout-haters only get more fuel. Let’s look at the East after Saturday’s relevant games are over (the late games are all West-leaning).

Atlantic

Montreal: 104 points, three games remaining, 41 regulation/OT wins
Tampa Bay: 104 points, two GR, 46 ROW
Red Wings: 95 points, four GR, 37 ROW

Metropolitan

Rangers: 107 points, four GR, 47 ROW
Islanders: 98 points, three GR, 39 ROW
Capitals: 97 points, three GR, 38 ROW

Wild card

Penguins: 95 points, four GR, 38 ROW
Bruins: 95 points, three GR, 37 ROW

Bubble of one

Senators: 92 points, four GR, 34 ROW

It’s obviously not over for Ottawa just yet, but they’ll clearly need some help in this final week. As you can see, they didn’t get much of it on Saturday (although they almost did).

No Nugent-Hopkins for Oilers on Saturday

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
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The playoff-hungry Calgary Flames get a break on Saturday, as the Edmonton Oilers will try to play spoiler against them without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

“RNH” is out with a lower-body injury. The bad side of that is a top line gets a new wrinkle, however, as Taylor Hall slides between Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Eberle according to Fan 960’s Derek Wills.

No Nugent-Hopkins seems like a positive on paper for the Flames, but what if that little change of pace gives Edmonton a little boost? This is a wacky time of year, after all.

Lightning clinch a round of home ice, eliminate Panthers from playoffs

Steven Stamkos
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The Tampa Bay Lightning will start their first-round series at home this year. They also made sure that they’ll be the only Florida-based NHL team to see postseason action.

With the certainty of a 4-0 win, the Lightning throttled the Florida Panthers at home, killing any slim chance the Cats had at making the postseason. It wasn’t just about spite for Tampa Bay, though, naturally; they’ll enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round of the 2015 playoffs because of this win.

Steven Stamkos had a big night, scoring two goals after a lengthy slump and adding an assist for good measure. Tyler Johnson fit right back in during his first game back from injury issues, collecting a goal and an assist. Ben Bishop pitched a 33-save shutout.

It’s remarkable that the Lightning keep playing well despite injury after injury. They’d naturally prefer to stride into the postseason instead of hobbling there, but they’re finding ways to win nonetheless.

Florida, meanwhile, will deal with the uncomfortably familiar problem of finding what to do after the 82nd game of the season.

Video: Zdeno Chara bloodies Trevor Smith

smithtrevor
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Sometimes an innocuous hit can draw blood. That’s especially true when Boston Bruins behemoth Zdeno Chara is delivering the check.

That was evident on Saturday, as a fairly typical-looking hit left Toronto Maple Leafs forward Trevor Smith bloody:

Eye injury makes Wild’s Koivu a late scratch

MikkoKoivuC
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The Minnesota Wild made captain Mikko Koivu a late scratch against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday, as he’s sidelined with an eye injury.

Koivu, 32, is considered day-to-day with this ailment.

While Koivu failed to score in Minnesota’s most recent game, he had been heating up lately with three goals and two assists for five points in a three-game span from March 24-28.

At the moment, Minnesota’s place in the playoffs looks comfortable, yet there’s enough competition in the West that they can’t just coast. Considering what Detroit has on the line as well, this game could be that much tougher without Koivu.