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Red Wings grab fourth by overtaking Blues

Wednesday, 04.04.2012 / 11:07 PM / Drive to the Playoffs

By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

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Red Wings grab fourth by overtaking Blues
The Red Wings rallied past the Blues and beat them in a shootout to move into the Western Conference's fourth slot.

A two-goal lead for the St. Louis Blues is usually money in the bank. Wednesday was one of the exceptions.

St. Louis scored twice in a 3:01 span of the third period to grab a 2-0 lead against Detroit with less than 10 minutes remaining. It looked like the Blues were on the way to their 31st victory in 40 games at Scottrade Center -- until the Wings finally solved goaltender Brian Elliott, who was closing in on his fourth straight shutout.

Johan Franzen ended Elliott's shutout streak at 240:28 when he scored with 6:05 remaining, then beat him again with 3:50 to play to force overtime. After five scoreless minutes, the game went to a shootout -- something that's been an Achilles heel for the Blues this season. Todd Bertuzzi scored the only goal of the tiebreaker to give Detroit a stunning 3-2 win.

The two points moved Detroit back in front of Nashville in the race for fourth place in the West -- and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The loss, St. Louis' 10th of the season in a shootout, left the Blues two points shy of Vancouver in the race for first place in the West.

After a night that saw most of the playoff contenders take a breather, almost everyone sees action on a 14-game Thursday. Here's a look at how the races in both conferences shape up following the two games played Wednesday:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Division leaders:

New York Rangers (109 points) are already assured of finishing first in the East. Wins against Pittsburgh on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN) and Washington on Saturday (6:30 p.m.; NBCSN) will assure the Rangers of the Presidents' Trophy and the home-ice edge for as far as they go in the playoffs.

Boston (98 points) will leave some of its top players home for Thursday's game against Ottawa, a likely first-round opponent. Coach Claude Julien said after Wednesday's practice that Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk and Patrice Bergeron would stay home. Youngsters like Lane MacDermid and Anton Khudobin will get some ice time against the Senators.

Florida (92 points) is one point away from clinching its first playoff berth since 2000 and the first division title in team history. The Panthers can end both droughts Thursday night in Washington (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US).

The next five:

Pittsburgh (104 points) can't catch the Rangers but can lock up fourth place by beating New York at Consol Energy Center.

Philadelphia (101 points) had a full day off from practice on Wednesday before hosting Buffalo on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center.

New Jersey (98 points) will tune up for the playoffs when they visit Detroit on Thursday. The Devils are all but assured of finishing sixth. They lost forward Jacob Josefson for at least a month with a broken wrist in Tuesday's 3-1 win against the Islanders.

Ottawa (92 points) gets an early look at its likely first-round opponent when Boston comes to Scotiabank Place on Thursday. One point in their last two games will lock the Senators into seventh and a first-round series with the Bruins.

Washington (88 points) will have Michal Neuvirth in goal for Thursday's game against Florida. Neuvirth has carried the load since Tomas Vokoun went down with a groin injury last week, but allowed a late go-ahead goal in the 4-2 loss to the Lightning on Monday.

On the outside looking in:

Buffalo (88 points) won't have defenseman Tyler Myers for its last two regular-season games. He hasn't played since blocking a shot with his foot in last Friday's game against Pittsburgh. The Sabres are also missing top-four defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (knee) as they head to Philadelphia for Thursday's must-win game.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Division leaders:

Vancouver (109 points) will start Cory Schneider at Calgary on Thursday night -- but the decision has nothing to do with Roberto Luongo's struggles on Tuesday, when he was hooked after allowing four goals on 15 shots. Schneider's start was planned ahead of time as the Canucks tune up for the playoffs. A win in Calgary would be their eighth in a row.

St. Louis (107 points after Wednesday's 3-2 shootout loss to Detroit) appeared to be on the way to its way to another home win when David Perron and Andy McDonald scored 3:01 apart in the third period. But for one of the few times this season, the Blues couldn't hold a two-goal lead and had to settle for a single point after losing 1-0 in a shootout for the seventh time this season.

Los Angeles (93 points) won't have Jeff Carter for Thursday's showdown with San Jose -- he's still not practicing because of an ankle injury. But coach Darryl Sutter said defenseman Slava Voynov will play despite skipping practice on Wednesday for a maintenance day.

The next five:

Detroit (101 points after Wednesday's 3-2 shootout win at St. Louis) refused to quit after giving up a pair of third-period goals to the Blues -- and the Wings went home with the two points that moved them back into fourth place in the West. Detroit won't have any time to celebrate; the Wings host New Jersey on Thursday night.

Nashville (100 points) had starting goaltender Pekka Rinne back at practice Wednesday after he sat out Tuesday's game because of illness. The Predators wrap up their home schedule against Dallas on Thursday.

Chicago (98 points) will be without both captain Jonathan Toews and center Dave Bolland for Thursday's game at Minnesota. But Toews will make the trip to the Twin Cities and might be able to play in Saturday's season finale at Detroit (1 p.m. ET; NBC).

Phoenix (93 points) had the first of two off-days before ending its season with games at St. Louis on Friday and Minnesota on Saturday. No one needed the rest more than goaltender Mike Smith, who stopped 54 shots in Tuesday's 2-0 win against Columbus.

San Jose (92 points) headed for Los Angeles on Wednesday after winning 5-2 in Dallas on Tuesday, a victory that gave the Sharks some breathing room on the ninth-place Stars.

On the outside looking in:

Dallas (89 points) has to win its last two games, against Nashville and St. Louis, and hope for help after its playoff hopes took a major hit when San Jose won at American Airlines Center on Tuesday. The Stars spent part of Wednesday's practice working on the power play, which is in a 1-for-21 slump.

Colorado (88 points) finally gets back on the ice Thursday when Columbus comes to Pepsi Center. The Avs have been off since beating the Flames in Calgary last Friday.

Quote of the Day

He's able to play now, we just want to see other guys. We know what he can do.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on not rushing Steven Stamkos onto the ice