NHL Rink Wrap: Wild clinch playoff spot; Maple Leafs set team records

NHL Scores
David Berding, Getty Images

Top player in the NHL on Sunday

Kevin Fiala, Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild officially clinched a playoff spot on Sunday with a 5-4 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks. Fiala played a starring role in the win with a goal and three assists, including the helper on Jared Spurgeon‘s game-winning goal. The line of Fiala, Matthew Boldy, and Frederik Gaudreau was dominant all day on Sunday and helped drive the Wild’s offense. Fiala is having a fantastic season for Minnesota and playing his way to a significant raise this offseason. It is going to be a challenge to re-sign him given the salary cap situation but he is a must-sign for the Wild given how important he has been for the offense this season.

Highlights from around the NHL on Sunday

Spurgeon’s game-winning goal in overtime that helped the Wild clinch their playoff spot.

The Blues offense is rolling and scored eight goals on Sunday in an 8-3 win against the Nashville Predators, including these seven goals (from five different goal scorers) in the second period. The seven goals in a singe period is a franchise record for the Blues.

The Anaheim Ducks score some beautiful goals, and it is usually Trevor Zegras involved in them in some way.

Three takeaways from the NHL on Sunday

Maple Leafs set new franchise records

With their 4-2 win over the New York Islanders on Sunday night the Toronto Maple Leafs set new franchise records for single season wins (50) and points (106). The Maple Leafs are playing great hockey right now and are looking like one of the league’s top teams going into the playoffs. That is where they will be measured. All of the regular season wins and points are not going to mean a thing until this team does something in the playoffs, and after five consecutive seasons of First Round exits there is no group of players and no team facing more pressure to win this season than this Maple Leafs team.

Goals for everybody and winning streaks for everybody

According to the NHL this was the highest scoring weekend in NHL history and boosted the league’s average goals per game to 6.3 goals per game. It has been 26 years (1995-96 season) since the league had a 6.3 goals per game average. Teams like the Florida Panthers and St. Louis Blues are helping to drive that offensive surge. They also happen to have two of the longest winning streaks in the NHL with the Panthers winning 10 games in a row and the Blues now at nine games in a row thanks to their big wins on Sunday. The Colorado Avalanche, who were off on Sunday, have also won nine games in a row. That is now three teams currently with a winning streak of at least nine games or more.

The Eastern Conference Playoff field is set

The New York Islanders loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday officially put the Washington Capitals back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the eighth straight year (second longest active streak in the NHL, trailing only the Pittsburgh Penguins at 16 seasons) and for the 14th time in the past 15 seasons. That means all eight Eastern Conference playoff teams are officially set with still two weeks to play in the regular season. There are still four playoff spots open in the Western Conference.

Monday’s big story

The Vegas Golden Knights look to gain some ground in the Western Conference playoff race when they host the New Jersey Devils, while the Dallas Stars visit the suddenly streaking Vancouver Canucks. The Stars and Golden Knights are both competing for the remaining playoff spots in the West. The Stars currently have the inside track to a spot, but Vegas is making a strong push now that it is finally starting to get healthy.

Sunday’s NHL Scores

Florida Panthers 6, Detroit Red Wings 1
Buffalo Sabres 5, Philadelphia Flyers 3
St. Louis Blues 8, Nashville Predators 3
Minnesota Wild 5, San Jose Sharks 4 (OT)
Toronto Maple Leafs 4, New York Islanders 2
Anaheim Ducks 6, Columbus Blue Jackets 4

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