HOME ICE WINS HELP PENGUINS, ISLANDERS GAIN IN METROPOLITAN DIVISION
The Pittsburgh Penguins (44-25-8, 96 points) and New York Islanders (42-25-9, 93 points) picked up victories on home ice to gain ground on the New York Rangers (43-25-9, 95 points), who lost in regulation, in the crowded Metropolitan Division, where teams Nos. 2-4 are separated by three points:
* After potting the decisive shootout tally Tuesday vs. BUF, Kris Letang (1-1-2) scored what stood as the game-winning goal to lead the Penguins to a 5-2 win against the Nashville Predators, their 10th win in their past 11 outings, propelling them into the No. 2 seed in the division and dashing the Predators' attempt to clinch a playoff spot. Pittsburgh paced the entire NHL with 12 wins in March, tied for the second-most victories in a calendar month in franchise history, behind a 15-win month in March 2013.
* Two nights after scoring a late goal to force overtime, Anders Lee (1-0-1) scored the go-ahead goal at 5:23 of the third period to lift the Islanders to a 4-3 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, their third straight win, and a 9-1-1 record in their past 11 games at Barclays Center. John Tavares (2-0-2) had his third multigoal game of the season to help the Islanders, who hold the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference, move four points ahead of the idle Philadelphia Flyers (38-25-13, 89 points).
Home Team in Caps
BUFFALO 4, Toronto 1
NY ISLANDERS 4, Columbus 3
PITTSBURGH 5, Nashville 2
CAROLINA 4, NY Rangers 3
Montreal 3, TAMPA BAY 0
FLORIDA 3, New Jersey 2
Ottawa 3, MINNESOTA 2
DALLAS 4, Arizona 1
LOS ANGELES 3, Calgary 0
Vancouver 4, SAN JOSE 2
RACES CONTINUE FOR OTHER DIVISION CROWNS
The Florida Panthers and Los Angeles Kings matched franchise records for wins in a season to regain the top spot in the Atlantic Division and Pacific Division, respectively, while the Dallas Stars won to move into sole possession of first in the Central Division and Western Conference:
* The Panthers (43-25-9, 95 points) scored three straight goals, aided by Jaromir Jagr (0-2-2) who had two third-period assists, to defeat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 for their third victory in their past four games, matching a franchise record for wins in a season (also 1999-00: 43-27-12) and moving past the Tampa Bay Lightning (44-28-5, 93 points) into first place in the Atlantic Division. Via the Elias Sports Bureau, Jagr (25-36-61 in 74 GP) eclipsed 60 points for the 18th time in his career, trailing only Gordie Howe (21) and Wayne Gretzky (19) for the most such seasons in NHL history.
* Jonathan Quick (21 SV) had his 42nd career shutout (fifth this season) to lead the Kings (46-26-5, 97 points) past the Calgary Flames 3-0 for their 46th win of the season, matching the franchise record last achieved in 2013-14, and back into the No. 1 seed in the Pacific Division, one point ahead of the idle Anaheim Ducks (43-23-10, 96 points). Quick, who ranks second in the NHL in wins, improved to 39-21-4 in 2015-16 (64 GP) to match his own franchise record for wins in a season (2009-10: 39-24-7 in 72 GP).
Video: CGY@LAK: Quick keeps Gaudreau, Flames off the board
* The Stars (47-22-9, 103 points) scored four unanswered goals, powered by Jamie Benn (1-1-2) reaching the 40-goal milestone for the first time, to defeat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 and pick up their sixth victory in their past seven games, moving them two points ahead of the idle St. Louis Blues (46-22-9, 101 points) into sole possession of first place in the Central Division and Western Conference. Benn, who became the first 40-goal scorer for the Stars since 1993-94 (Mike Modano: 50), registered his 87th point of the season (40-47-87 in 78 GP) to match a career high established in 2014-15 when he won the Art Ross Trophy (35-52-87 in 82 GP).
PLAYING THE SPOILER
The Carolina Hurricanes, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks all earned victories to put a dent in their opponents' playoff plans:
* Jeff Skinner (1-1-2) and Victor Rask (1-0-1) each scored in the third period to help the Hurricanes defeat the Rangers 4-3, preventing them from clinching a playoff position and spoiling former captain Eric Staal's return to Carolina. ICYMI: Staal received a standing ovation from players and fans at PNC Arena following a video tribute.
* Jean-Gabriel Pageau (1-2-3) matched a career high with three points and Cody Ceci (1-0-1) notched the tiebreaking goal with 3:57 remaining in regulation to help the Senators stall the Minnesota Wild's playoff push with a 3-2 win. Craig Anderson (23 SV) reached 30 wins for the third time in his career.
* Mike Condon (26 SV) had his first career shutout (52 GP) in the Canadiens' 3-0 win against the Lightning. Condon improved to 3-0-0 against the Lightning this season and prevented Tampa Bay from retaining the No. 1 seed in the Atlantic Division. David Desharnais (1-0-1) scored the game-winning goal while skating in his 400th career game.
* Jannik Hansen (1-1-2) scored the tiebreaking goal with 5:03 remaining in regulation of the Canucks' 4-2 win against the San Jose Sharks, halting the Canucks' losing streak at nine games (0-8-1) and prevent the Sharks from gaining ground in the Pacific, where five points separate the top three teams. Hansen reached 20 goals for the first time and extended a career-high with his sixth game-winning goal of the season.
Video: VAN@SJS: Hansen puts Canucks ahead with his 20th goal
MILESTONES & BENCHMARKS
* Hurricanes forward Patrick Brown (1-1-2), who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2014, scored his first NHL goal (11 GP).
* Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tobias Lindberg (0-1-1), Hurricanes forward Sergey Tolchinsky (0-1-1), Blue Jackets forward Sonny Milano and Senators defenseman Ben Harpur all made their NHL debuts.
* Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello (1-0-1) and Devils forward Adam Henrique (0-1-1) each scored their 200th NHL point.
* Wild forward Erik Haula scored to extend his point streak to 10 games (5-6-11), matching a franchise record established from March 7-27, 2002 (Andrew Brunette: 5-12-17).
* Stars forward Ales Hemsky had two assists to extend his point streak to six games (2-5-7).
* Sharks defenseman Brent Burns had 0-2-2 to extend his assist/point streak to five games (0-8-8).
* Coyotes forwards Martin Hanzal (3-4-7) and Anthony Duclair (2-4-6) each extended their point streaks to five games after teaming up with Max Domi for a highlight-reel tic-tac-toe goal.
Cal O'Reilly (2-0-2) and Johan Larsson (2-0-2) each posted their first career multi-goal games to help the Buffalo Sabres win 4-1 and extend their home point streak vs. TOR to 11 games (10-0-1) . . . Kings forward Jeff Carter (2-1-3) had his fifth multigoal and fourth three-point performance of the season . . . Penguins linemates Phil Kessel (2-0-2) and Nick Bonino (1-1-2) have combined for 7-10-17 in their past four games (Kessel: 4-5-9 and Bonino: 3-5-8) . . . Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov (GWG) scored his 24th goal of the season (61 GP) to match his total from his first 125 career games . . . Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson had 1-1-2 to match a career high for points in a season (15-63-78 in 78 GP) . . . Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau (2-0-2) scored for the fourth straight game to match a career high with 54 points this season (18-36-54 in 71 GP) . . . Stars forward Patrick Sharp reached the 20-goal mark for the eighth time . . . Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who has points in 16 of his past 17 games (7-17-24), registered his 599th career assist . . . Sharks forward Joe Thornton (0-1-1) ranks second in the NHL with 14-46-60 in 49 games since Dec. 15 . . . The Department of Player Safety fined Washington Capitals forward Jason Chimera $5,000 for butt-ending Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere . . . The Department of Player Safety also announced Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith waived his right to an in person hearing. A phone hearing will be conducted Friday afternoon . . . ICYMI: Three NHL-related productions received nominations for the 37th Annual Sports Emmy Awards.