Playoff Push: Panthers extend lead in Southeast

Monday, 02.27.2012 / 2:00 AM
Brian Compton  - Deputy Managing Editor
The Florida Panthers honored Stephen Weiss prior to Sunday's game against the Montreal Canadiens after he became the franchise's all-time leader in games played just a few days earlier.

With his family and friends in the stands, Weiss thanked the Panthers by scoring twice and adding an assist in a 4-2 win at the BankAtlantic Center. The victory allowed Florida to move two points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets and three ahead of the Washington Capitals in the ever-so-tight Southeast Division race.

The Panthers also were able to overcome a two-goal deficit for a second straight day. The Panthers rallied from a 2-0 deficit against Carolina before earning a 3-2 shootout victory at the RBC Center on Saturday.

"We proved (Saturday) night that we can come back and win it," goaltender Scott Clemmensen said after Sunday's victory. "It is fresh in our minds and we were able to put it together again tonight. It was a big two points."

With five games on Monday's schedule, here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Sunday's action:

Eastern Conference

Division leaders

New York Rangers (84 points) did not play Sunday. The Rangers return to action on Monday night, when they'll host the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden.

Boston (77 points) was idle Sunday, but its lead in the Northeast Division was cut to three points thanks to Ottawa's win against the Islanders. The Bruins are off again Monday before hosting the Sens at TD Garden on Tuesday night.

Florida (70 points after Sunday's 4-2 win against Montreal) moved two full points ahead of Winnipeg and three ahead of Washington thanks to its come-from-behind victory against the Canadiens. The Panthers will visit Toronto on Tuesday night.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (77 points after Sunday's 4-2 win against Columbus) is back in fourth place after beating the Blue Jackets at the Consol Energy Center. The Pens begin a brief two-game road trip on Wednesday night at Dallas.

Philadelphia (75 points) did not play Sunday and fell into fifth place, two points behind the Penguins. The Flyers will visit San Jose on Tuesday to complete a four-game trip.

New Jersey (74 points after Sunday's 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay) suffered another one-goal loss Sunday afternoon, this time to the Lightning. New Jersey will try to bounce back Monday night against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Ottawa (74 points after Sunday's 5-2 win against the Islanders) rebounded nicely from Saturday's loss to Boston by beating the Isles at Scotiabank Place. The Sens, who acquired Ben Bishop from St. Louis on Sunday morning, will visit Boston on Tuesday night.

Winnipeg (68 points) was idle Sunday and fell two points behind Florida in the Southeast Division race. The Jets will host Edmonton on Monday.

On the outside looking in:

Washington (67 points) did not play Sunday. The Caps will host the Islanders on Tuesday at Verizon Center.

Toronto (65 points) was idle Sunday. The Leafs, who have won just once in their last nine games, will host Florida on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay (62 points after Sunday's 4-3 win at New Jersey) bounced back nicely from an 8-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday by edging the host Devils on Sunday afternoon. The Lightning will host Montreal on Tuesday night.

Buffalo (62 points) did not play Sunday. The Sabres are off until Wednesday night, when they will visit Anaheim.

Western Conference

Division leaders

Vancouver (87 points after Sunday's 3-2 overtime loss at Dallas) came up short against the Stars, but the Canucks did move two points ahead of Detroit by extending Sunday's game past regulation. Vancouver will visit Phoenix on Tuesday.

Detroit (85 points) did not play Sunday. The Red Wings will visit Columbus on Tuesday.

Phoenix (73 points) remains alone atop the Pacific thanks to San Jose's loss in Minnesota. The Coyotes are off until Tuesday night, when they'll host Vancouver.

The next five:

St. Louis (83 points) did not play Sunday, but it did trade Ben Bishop to Ottawa in the morning.  The Blues will visit Calgary on Monday night.

Nashville (79 points) was idle Sunday. The Preds will host Los Angeles on Monday night.

Chicago (73 points after Sunday's 3-1 loss at Anaheim) came up short again without its captain, Jonathan Toews. Perhaps he'll be back in the lineup Wednesday, when the Blackhawks return to action against Toronto at the United Center.

San Jose (71 points after Sunday's 4-3 loss at Minnesota) probably couldn't wait to board the plane after ending its nine-game road trip with a loss to the Wild. The Sharks, who finished the trip with a record of 2-6-1, will host Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Dallas (70 points after Sunday's 3-2 overtime win against Vancouver) picked up a second point in the standings Sunday afternoon when Loui Eriksson beat Roberto Luongo at 3:52 of overtime at the American Airlines Center. Dallas will host Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.

On the outside looking in:

Los Angeles (68 points) did not play Sunday. The Kings begin a two-game road trip Monday night at Nashville.

Colorado (68 points) was also off Sunday. The Avs will host Anaheim on Monday night.

Calgary (67 points) was idle Sunday. The Flames will host St. Louis on Monday night.

Minnesota (65 points after Sunday's 4-3 win against San Jose) fought off the Sharks at the Xcel Energy Center and earned two huge points to remain five points behind Dallas for the West's final playoff spot. The Wild will host Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Anaheim (64 points after Sunday's 3-1 win against Chicago) was 20 points out of a playoff spot in early January. Will the Ducks add another piece before Monday's trade deadline, just hours before they visit Colorado?

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL
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