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Round 2
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Stanley Cup Final

Playoff Pulse: Jets sitting pretty in Southeast

Friday, 02.24.2012 / 10:36 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

The first-place Winnipeg Jets.

Those words are music to captain Andrew Ladd's ears -- not that he or his teammates are taking anything for granted.

"It's nice to be above (the Stanley Cup Playoff line), but we understand we still have a long way to go," Ladd said after Thursday's 4-3 win against Tampa Bay vaulted the Jets past Florida and into first place in the Southeast Division. "We're not going to be happy until the season's over and we're above the line. We need to keep taking advantage of playing at home here and playing some good hockey."

Dustin Byfuglien salutes the crowd at MTS Centre after the Winnipeg Jets moved into first place in the Southeast Division with a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Photo: Jonathan Kozub/NHLI)
The Jets rode two power-play goals in a span of 1:14 to a 4-0 lead Thursday night, then held off a late comeback by the Lightning to improve to 3-0-1 on their eight-game homestand. The win, combined with Florida's 3-2 shootout loss to Minnesota, leaves the Jets a point ahead of the Panthers -- and ahead of everyone in the division, at least for a day.

"You can't think about it," Ladd said. "It's nice to see the results and see where we are right now, but that can change day to day. Unless we keep winning, it's not going to mean much."

In the West, the Vancouver Canucks moved within a point of the conference lead by beating the Red Wings 4-3 in a shootout, snapping Detroit's NHL-record 23-game home winning streak.

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

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Division leaders:

New York Rangers (81 points) were idle again Thursday. They visit the Islanders on Friday before hosting Buffalo on Saturday.

Boston (74 points) had Thursday off before beginning a back-to-back with a visit to Buffalo on Friday. The Bruins then visit Ottawa on Saturday.

Winnipeg (67 points after Thursday's 4-3 win against Tampa Bay) extended its streak of power-play conversions to seven when Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien scored in a 1:14 span early in the second period for a 4-0 lead. The final score looked closer than the game; Tampa Bay made it a one-goal game with two sixth-attacker goals in the final minute.

The next five:

New Jersey (74 points) was off again Thursday. The Devils host Vancouver on Friday, beginning a stretch of three games in four days.

Philadelphia (73 points after Thursday's 2-0 loss at Edmonton) couldn't find a way to solve goaltender Devan Dubnyk despite 35 shots on goal. The Flyers paid the price for a flat second period in which the Oilers scored twice. Philadelphia continues its trip Saturday night in Calgary.

Craig Anderson
Goalie - OTT
RECORD: 29-19-6
GAA: 2.85 | SVP: 0.913
Pittsburgh (73 points) had a second day off and won't play again until Saturday, when Tampa Bay comes to the Consol Energy Center.

Ottawa (72 points) had the day off but took a big hit anyway. Starting goaltender Craig Anderson will be out indefinitely after cutting his hand in an accident at home. Either backup Alex Auld or a call-up, likely Robin Lehner, will be in goal when Boston comes to Scotiabank Place on Saturday.

Florida (66 points after Thursday's 3-2 shootout loss to Minnesota) earned a point when Sean Bergenheim forced overtime by scoring with 4:12 left in regulation. But the Wild scored twice against Jose Theodore in the shootout to leave South Florida with the extra point. The single point did keep the Panthers in the top eight in the East.

On the outside looking in:

Toronto (65 points after Thursday's 2-1 loss to San Jose) continues to stumble. The Leafs got a third-period goal from rookie defenseman Jake Gardiner, but that was the only one of their 30 shots to beat Antti Niemi. Toronto is 1-6-1 in its past eight games.

Washington (63 points) is glad to be home after a 1-3-0 road trip that ended with Wednesday's 5-2 loss in Ottawa. The Caps host Montreal on Friday night (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, TSN, RDS).

Tampa Bay (60 points after Thursday's 4-3 loss at Winnipeg) was getting blown out for more than 50 minutes in Winnipeg before making it close at the end. In the end, however, the Bolts saw their three-game winning streak end. They have a tough weekend back-to-back with visits to Pittsburgh and New Jersey.

Buffalo (59 points) was idle again Thursday. The Sabres host Boston at First Niagara Center on Friday night, then visit the Rangers on Saturday.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Division leaders:

Detroit (85 points after Thursday's 4-3 shootout loss to Vancouver) was outplayed for much of the game and yet was only 15.4 seconds away from extending its home winning streak to 24 games until the Canucks tied the game after pulling Roberto Luongo. Despite losing the shootout, the single point kept the Wings on top of the Western Conference standings for at least another day.

Daniel Sedin
Left Wing - VAN
GOALS: 28 | ASST: 35 | PTS: 63
SOG: 201 | +/-: 19
Vancouver (84 points after Thursday's 4-3 shootout win at Detroit) refused to lose at Joe Louis Arena, rallying from three one-goal deficits, tying the game on a goal by Daniel Sedin with 15.4 seconds left and winning on Alexandre Burrows' shootout goal. The Canucks, who've played one fewer game than the Wings, can take over first place in the League standings with a win at New Jersey on Friday night.

San Jose (71 points after Thursday's 2-1 win at Toronto) got a pair of second-period goals by Patrick Marleau and a 29-save performance by Antti Niemi, who bounced back after being pulled Tuesday following a four-goal first period at Columbus. The win kept the Sharks atop the Pacific Division.

The next five:

St. Louis (81 points after Thursday's 3-2 shootout win at Nashville) finally found a way to beat the Predators and goaltender Pekka Rinne, even if it had to go to a shootout. T.J. Oshie and Andy McDonald scored in the tiebreaker to give the Blues their first win in five games against Nashville this season -- and a good start to their six-game road trip.

Nashville (77 points after Thursday's 3-2 shootout loss to Nashville) missed a chance to pull within a point of the Blues in the battle for fourth place in the West. Nashville had won the first four meetings this season. The single point did move the Predators four in front of sixth-place Chicago.

Chicago (73 points after Thursday's 3-1 loss to Dallas) appeared to be in control after two periods against the Stars after outshooting them 16-5 in the second period and scoring the game's only goal to that point. But the Hawks came out flat in the third period and went home empty-handed.

Richard Bachman
Goalie - DAL
RECORD: 7-3-1
GAA: 2.58 | SVP: 0.916
Phoenix (71 points after Thursday's 4-3 shootout win at Calgary) just keeps finding ways to win. The Coyotes overcame an early 2-0 deficit and survived a late tying goal by the Flames to improve to 9-0-1 in 10 games this month. Ray Whitney, who had scored the go-ahead goal in the third period, got the only goal in the tiebreaker.

Dallas (66 points after Thursday's 3-1 win at Chicago) got a 26-save effort by rookie goaltender Richard Bachman and third-period goals by Steve Ott, Michael Ryder and Loui Eriksson to win in Chicago and move back into the top eight in the West. The Stars can stay there by beating Minnesota at home Friday -- but to do so, they'll have to win the second half of a back-to-back for the first time in 11 tries this season.

On the outside looking in:

Calgary (66 points after Thursday's 4-3 shootout loss to Phoenix) couldn't hold an early 2-0 lead against Phoenix, though the Flames didn't go home empty-handed thanks to Olli Jokinen's power-play goal with 1:46 left in regulation. The good news for the Flames was the return of forward Curtis Glencross, who missed 13 games with a knee injury, and defenseman Derek Smith, who had missed 22 with a high ankle sprain.

Jeff Carter
Center - LAK
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 10 | PTS: 25
SOG: 130 | +/-: -11
Los Angeles (66 points) has a couple of days off before Chicago comes to the Staples Center on Saturday. When the puck drops, the Kings should have their newest acquisition -- they landed three-time 30-goal scorer Jeff Carter on Thursday in a trade from Columbus. The Kings hope Carter will jump start the NHL's worst offense -- L.A. averages just 2.05 goals per game.

Colorado (64 points) had Thursday off after beating the Kings 4-1 at home Wednesday. The Avs are in Columbus on Friday night.

Minnesota (63 points after Thursday's 3-2 shootout win at Florida) stayed in the hunt by beating the Panthers in a tiebreaker. Niklas Backstrom stopped 41 shots during the first 65 minutes, then denied two more in the shootout for the win. The Wild visit Dallas on Friday night before returning home to host San Jose on Sunday.

Anaheim (62 points after Thursday's 3-2 shootout win at Carolina) was 20 points out of a playoff berth on Jan. 6. Now, the Ducks head home after their eight-game road trip down only four points after rallying to beat the 'Canes. Corey Perry got the tying goal in the third period and Saku Koivu scored the only goal of the shootout as the Ducks finished 5-1-2 on their longest trip of the season. They're off until Chicago comes to Honda Center on Sunday.

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery