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BOSTON (AP) -Tim Thomas helped the Boston Bruins wrap up the Eastern Conference regular-season title, making 31 saves for his fifth shutout of the season in a 1-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday.

One day after signing a four-year, $20 million contract extension and 5 1/2 minutes after being hit in the back of his helmet by Sean Avery, Thomas backstopped the Bruins to their sixth straight victory.

Boston clinched the best record in the East for the first time since 2001-2002. And it might have been a preview of the first playoff round, with the Rangers holding the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference.

Blake Wheeler scored his 21st goal at 9:04 of the first period.

Avery hit Thomas as the goalie was stretching in front of his net during a television timeout with 5:24 left. Thomas chased Avery to center ice as Avery kept skating with his back to the goalie. Thomas pushed Avery then was hit from behind by New York's Frederik Sjostrom. Thomas turned and swung at Sjostrom before officials separated players. Avery and Thomas received minor penalties.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Anton Babchuk scored at 1:11 of overtime, and Carolina clinched its first playoff berth since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006.

Cam Ward stopped 33 shots and matched a club record with his 38th win, helping the Hurricanes extend their franchise-record home winning streak to 11. Their eight-game overall winning streak is their longest since they won nine in a row in 2005-06.

Chad LaRose and Eric Staal both scored for the second straight game, and Ray Whitney added two assists for Carolina. Tyler Kennedy had a goal and an assist for the Penguins, and Jordan Staal also scored.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Ville Koistinen scored the only shootout goal for Nashville, and Jason Arnott, back in the Predators' lineup after an 11-game absence because of a concussion, had two goals and an assist.

Shea Weber and Radek Bonk also scored to help Nashville match Anaheim and St. Louis with 86 points in the Western Conference playoff chase.

Rick Nash scored twice, and Jiri Novotny and Jason Williams added goals for Columbus. The Blue Jackets are sixth in the conference, three points ahead of Nashville, Anaheim and St. Louis.

DALLAS (AP) - Defenseman Trevor Daley scored 16 seconds into overtime for Dallas, beating Chris Mason off Mike Modano's centering pass.

Loui Eriksson had two goals, and Mike Ribeiro and Steve Ott also scored for Dallas, eliminated from playoff contention.

Brad Boyes had two goals and two assists for the Blues, 6-1-1 in their last eight in a surprising climb into the top eight in the Western Conference. T.J. Oshie added a power-play goal, and David Backes also scored.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Martin Brodeur stopped 35 shots - including 21 in the third period alone - and Jamie Langenbrunner had a goal and assist for New Jersey.

Zach Parise and David Clarkson also scored to help the Devils snap a six-game road skid (0-5-1) and move on the verge of clinching the Atlantic Division title. New Jersey (49-26-4) also matched a franchise record for victories set in 2006-07.

Jochen Hecht and Clarke MacArthur scored for the Sabres, who had a 4-0-1 skid snapped and squandered a great opportunity to put themselves firmly in the hunt for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff berth.

TORONTO (AP) - Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves, and Alex Kovalev had a goal and three assists to help Montreal close in on a playoff spot.

After dropping a 5-2 decision to Toronto two weeks ago in Montreal, the Canadiens have gone 5-0-1 to move five points clear of ninth-place Florida in the race for one of the eight Eastern Conference playoff spots.

Guillaume Latendresse, Alex Tanguay, Chris Higgins, Maxim Lapierre and Josh Gorges also scored for Montreal. John Mitchell and Boyd Devereaux scored for Toronto.

OTTAWA (AP) - Mike Fisher scored on Ottawa's fifth shootout attempt to lift the Senators past Philadelphia.

Jason Spezza scored his 31st goal 3:47 into the third to draw Ottawa even at 3. Nick Foligno and Chris Kelly also scored for the Senators. Darroll Powe scored on a penalty shot, and Mike Richards and Simon Gagne added goals for Philadelphia.

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) - Yann Danis made 29 saves, and Richard Park, Radek Martinek and Josh Bailey scored to help New York snap a three-game losing streak.

Matt Pettinger scored for Tampa Bay, 0-4-2 in its last six.

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