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Handzus helps Kings move into fourth

Sunday, 03.13.2011 / 11:23 PM / Countdown to the Playoffs

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Handzus helps Kings move into fourth
Some late heroics by Michal Handzus on Sunday afternoon have the Los Angeles Kings alone in fourth place in the Western Conference.
Some late heroics by Michal Handzus on Sunday afternoon have the Los Angeles Kings alone in fourth place in the Western Conference.

Just 22 seconds after Jamie Langenbrunner had erased the Kings' 2-1 lead, Handzus beat Jonathan Quick at 19:39 of the third period in a wild 3-2 victory against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center.

It was huge for the Kings on two fronts -- not only did they pick up two valuable points in the standings, but they also denied the Stars of any points. That allowed L.A. to move one point ahead of Dallas in the Western Conference standings.

In the East, the Washington Capitals inched closer to the No. 1 seed as a 4-3 overtime victory against Chicago at the Verizon Center moved the Caps within a point of conference-leading Philadelphia.

Here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Sunday's games:

Eastern Conference

Division leaders

Philadelphia (91 points) was idle on Sunday, likely still picking up the pieces after Saturday's 5-4 home OT loss to Atlanta. The Flyers couldn't hold a 3-0 lead in the third period or a 4-2 lead in the final three minutes. Philadelphia begins a three-game road trip on Tuesday at Florida.

Washington (90 points after Sunday's 4-3 overtime win against Chicago) extended its winning streak to eight games when Mike Knuble beat Corey Crawford in the extra session. Now just one point behind the Flyers, the Caps visit Montreal on Tuesday night.

Boston (85 points) had the weekend off after back-to-back losses to the Sabres and Islanders. The Bruins return to action on Tuesday night in Columbus.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (88 points after Sunday's 5-1 win against Edmonton) moved within three points of Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division with a convincing victory against the Oilers at the Consol Energy Center. Chris Kunitz had a pair of goals for the Penguins, who visit Ottawa on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay
(85 points) was idle on Sunday. The Bolts, who dropped a 4-3 overtime decision at Florida on Saturday, return to action on Monday night at Toronto.

Montreal (83 points) was also off on Sunday. The Canadiens, who received yet another stellar performance from Carey Price in Pittsburgh on Saturday, will try to close the gap in the Northeast Division on Tuesday against the Capitals at the Bell Centre.

Buffalo (76 points after Sunday's 6-4 win against Ottawa) rebounded nicely from Saturday's loss at Toronto with a win on home ice against the Senators. With a higher winning percentage than the Rangers, Sunday's victory allowed Buffalo to move into seventh place in the standings. Another huge game awaits the Sabres on Tuesday night, when they'll host Carolina at HSBC Arena.

New York Rangers
(76 points) were adjusting back to the Eastern time zone on Sunday following Saturday's 3-2 shootout win at San Jose. The Blueshirts return to the ice on Tuesday against the Islanders at Madison Square Garden.

On the outside looking in:

Carolina (72 points) was idle Sunday. The Hurricanes, who are winless in four straight, will visit Buffalo -- who are now four points ahead of them -- on Tuesday night.

Toronto (70 points) did not play Sunday. The Leafs get back into the swing of things on Monday night against Tampa Bay at the Air Canada Centre.
 
Atlanta (70 points) was idle Sunday. The Thrashers, who rallied for that impressive win at Philadelphia on Saturday, will look to build off the momentum on Tuesday at New Jersey.
 
New Jersey (68 points) enjoyed a day off Sunday after Saturday's 3-2 OT home win against the Islanders. Now 22-3-2 in their last 27 games, the Devils host the Thrashers on Tuesday at the Prudential Center. Now eight points out of a playoff spot, New Jersey has two games in hand on the Rangers and one on Buffalo.

Florida (65 points) was idle Sunday. The Panthers will host Philadelphia on Tuesday night at the BankAtlantic Center.

New York Islanders
(65 points) did not play Sunday. The Isles, who are tied with Washington for the most points (50) in the Eastern Conference since Dec. 16, will face the Rangers in Manhattan on Tuesday night.

Western Conference

Division leaders:

Vancouver (99 points) was idle Sunday, enjoying a day off after completing a 5-0 road trip. The Canucks begin a three-game homestand against Minnesota on Monday night at Rogers Arena.
 
Detroit (90 points) was off Sunday, but its Central Division lead was trimmed to eight points due to Chicago's overtime loss at Washington. The Wings will host the Caps on Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena.

San Jose (86 points) did not play Sunday. The Sharks will receive some national attention on Monday night as they battle Chicago at the United Center in a game that can be seen on Versus in the U.S. and TSN2 in Canada.

The next five:

Los Angeles (83 points after Sunday's 3-2 win at Dallas) grabbed sole possession of fourth place in the West with its wild victory at Dallas that was decided in the final minute of regulation. The Kings will visit Nashville on Tuesday night.

Phoenix (83 points after Sunday's 5-2 win at Anaheim) moved into fifth place in the West thanks to a three-point night by captain Shane Doan at the Honda Center. The Coyotes now have three games in four nights in Western Canada, beginning with Calgary on Tuesday.

Dallas (82 points) figured it would get at least a point when Jamie Langenbrunner erased a 2-1 deficit at 19:17 of the third period, but Michal Handzus scored 22 seconds later and the Stars dropped a 3-2 decision to the Kings at the American Airlines Center. Dallas continues its homestand on Tuesday against San Jose.

Chicago (82 points) managed to get a point on Sunday thanks to a late goal by Jonathan Toews, but the Blackhawks couldn't get a second one in a 4-3 overtime loss at Washington. Chicago -- now in seventh due to Phoenix's win at Anaheim -- has little time to dwell on things as it hosts San Jose on Monday at the United Center (Versus, TSN2).

Calgary (81 points) was idle Sunday. The Flames, who have lost consecutive games for the first time since the first week of January, host Phoenix on Tuesday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.

On the outside looking in:

Nashville (80 points) was also off Sunday. Off to a perfect 2-0 start to their five-game homestand, the Predators return to action on Tuesday against Los Angeles.

Anaheim (79 points) came up empty on Sunday night in a 5-2 loss to Phoenix at the Honda Center. The Ducks will try to rebound on Wednesday, when they'll host St. Louis.

Minnesota (77 points) had the weekend off to regroup after back-to-back 4-0 losses at Nashville and Dallas. It doesn't get any easier for the Wild, who visit Vancouver on Monday and San Jose on Thursday before returning home.

Columbus (73 points) was off Sunday after it snapped a seven-game losing streak on Saturday night at Carolina. The Blue Jackets will host the Bruins on Tuesday night.


Quote of the Day

I just think about how much it hurts. The feelings aren't going to go away, probably never. It's just something that sticks with you for a long time.

— San Jose forward Logan Couture to The Canadian Press on the Sharks' first-round loss to the Kings after taking a 3-0 series lead