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Avalanche jump into top eight in the West

Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 12:49 AM / Drive to the Playoffs

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Avalanche jump into top eight in the West
The Colorado Avalanche didn't waste their second chance to move into the top eight in the Western Conference.
The Colorado Avalanche didn't waste their second chance to move into the top eight in the Western Conference.

The Avs led Edmonton 2-1 well past the midpoint of the third period on Saturday, only to have Taylor Hall tie the game with less than five minutes remaining. But neither team scored before regulation ended -- and following a scoreless overtime, the Avs did what they do best: Win a shootout. Milan Hejduk and Peter Mueller scored in the tiebreaker to give Colorado a 3-2 win.

The victory on gave the Avs 76 points and moved them past San Jose into eighth place. The Sharks missed a chance to regain the last playoff spot when they were beaten 3-0 in Phoenix a few hours later.

It's a busy Sunday, with eight games on the schedule. Here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after the 11 games played on Saturday:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Division leaders:


New York Rangers (91 points)
start a seven-game homestand by hosting the Islanders on Sunday. The Rangers play every other day at home through March 23.

Boston (83 points after Saturday's 4-3 loss to Washington) tried to play catch-up hockey all day after falling behind 2-0 and 4-2, but came up a goal short. The Bruins get right back on the ice Sunday at Pittsburgh (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, TSN).

Florida (75 points) begins a four-game homestand Sunday evening against Carolina still one point ahead of the pack in the Southeast Division.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (87 points) won't have Sidney Crosby in the lineup when it tries to extend its winning streak to nine games against Boston on Sunday. But Crosby said he might be able to play Thursday against the Rangers in New York, the first of three road games in four days against Atlantic Division rivals.

Philadelphia (85 points after Saturday's 1-0 shootout win at Toronto) played 65 scoreless minutes before Claude Giroux became the only player on either team to put the puck in the net when he connected in the second round of the shootout. Ilya Bryzgalov made 29 saves for his second straight shutout and stopped three more shots in the tiebreaker to give the Flyers their fifth straight win.

New Jersey (83 points after Saturday's 2-1 win at the New York Islanders) was less than two minutes away from being shut out by Islanders rookie Anders Nilsson for the second time in seven days. But David Clarkson scored with 1:39 remaining in regulation, and Marek Zidlicky fired home a power-play slapper 14 seconds later to give the Devils a stunning victory. They begin a home-and-home series with Philadelphia on Sunday.

Ottawa (81 points after Saturday's 4-3 shootout loss to Buffalo) had three one-goal leads but couldn't hang on and wound up losing in a shootout. Erik Karlsson scored twice for the Senators, who moved within two points of first-place Boston in the Northeast Division but have played three more games than the Bruins -- the Senators have 12 games remaining, the fewest of any playoff contender in the East.

Washington (74 points after Saturday's 4-3 win at Boston) helped its playoff hopes immensely by hanging on to beat the Bruins in Boston. Brooks Laich's power-play deflection late in the second period proved to be the winner. The Caps moved two points ahead of Winnipeg is the battle for the last spot, and they have a chance for more when the struggling Maple Leafs come to Verizon Center on Sunday.

On the outside looking in:

Winnipeg (72 points) had the first of four off-days before beginning a three-game homestand on Wednesday.

Buffalo (72 points after Saturday's 4-3 shootout win at Ottawa) trailed by one goal three times against the Senators, but found a way to get the game even each time before winning the shootout. Marcus Foligno scored the tying goal with 5:54 remaining in regulation and Tyler Ennis beat Ben Bishop in the third round of the shootout for the two points.
 
Tampa Bay (69 points after Saturday's 4-2 loss to Carolina) lost a game it had to win by dropping the opener of a seven-game homestand. The Lightning got goals by Ryan Malone and Nate Thompson -- but the 'Canes held NHL goal-scoring leader Steven Stamkos off the board and got two goals from Jeff Skinner.

Toronto (68 points after Saturday's 1-0 shootout loss to Philadelphia) played the kind of tight defense new coach Randy Carlyle was looking for -- Johan Gustavsson stopped 27 shots to get credit for a shutout. But the offense couldn't get a puck past Ilya Bryzgalov in 65 minutes of regulation or overtime, then went 0-for-3 in the shootout. The Leafs have a quick turnaround -- they visit Washington on Sunday.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Division leaders:


St. Louis (95 points after Saturday's 4-1 win against Columbus) used a team effort (four players scored goals and Andy McDonald had two assists) and a 21-save performance by Brian Elliott. The Blues won at Scottrade Center for the 29th time this season, the most home wins in the League. They won't see their own building for a while, though -- Sunday's return visit to Columbus kicks off a seven-game road trip.

Vancouver (92 points after Saturday's 4-1 loss to Montreal) fell to 2-3-0 on its seven-game homestand when visiting Montreal, the last-place team in the East, ran off four unanswered goals after Ryan Kesler opened the scoring midway through the second period. The Canucks are all but assured of finishing with no worse than the second seed, but they're now three points behind the first-place Blues.

Dallas (81 points after Saturday's 2-0 win against Anaheim) was buoyed by the return of captain Brenden Morrow, who scored a second-period power-play goal in his first game back after missing 18 with an upper-body injury. Kari Lehtonen made the lead stand up until Michael Ryder hit the empty net as the Stars improved to 9-0-1 in their last 10 games.

The next five:

Detroit (91 points after Saturday's 3-2 loss at Nashville) started a four-game trip by coming up a goal short against the Predators. The Wings, playing without Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Todd Bertuzzi  and Jimmy Howard, among others, have just nine goals in their last four games. They play their next three games in California, beginning Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Nashville (87 points after Saturday's 3-2 win against Detroit) improved to 13-2-2 in its last 17 home games thanks to the Kostitsyn brothers -- Sergei set up Andrei for a pair of power-play goals -- and Pekka Rinne, who made 35 saves. It was a big win for the Preds, who head to Arizona and California for four games next week.

Chicago (81 points) had the day off before Los Angeles comes to the United Center on Sunday night (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN2).

Phoenix (78 points after Saturday's 3-0 win against San Jose) finally played in March the way it did in February, when the Coyotes went 11-0-1. Mike Smith made 42 saves and rookie Mike Stone had his first NHL goal and an assist. The Coyotes had been 0-4-1 in March and hadn't held a lead this month until Mikkel Boedker scored late in the second period.

Colorado (76 points after Saturday's 3-2 shootout victory against Edmonton) couldn't hold a late 2-1 lead in regulation but got the two points anyway and improved to 8-1 in the tiebreaker, a big reason they're contending for a playoff berth.

On the outside looking in:

San Jose (75 points after Saturday's 3-0 loss at Phoenix) continues to struggle to score. The Sharks put 42 shots on Mike Smith, but couldn't get any of them past him and dropped out of the top eight. They are 1-3-2 in their last six games and have lost the first two on a four-game road trip that continues in Edmonton on Monday and Calgary on Tuesday.

Calgary (74 points) had Saturday off. The Flames can jump into the top eight with a victory at Minnesota on Sunday.

Los Angeles (74 points) wraps up a tough four-game trip in Chicago on Sunday. The Kings won at Nashville, but lost in Columbus and Detroit.
Quote of the Day

It's always a little bit weird, but it moves on. They've got a good team, and they played well tonight. I think that's just part of it.

— Peter Laviolette on facing his former team (Flyers) for the first time since his departure