The Columbus Blue Jackets can clinch the last available berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a victory against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Friday (7 p.m. ET; TVAS, MSG+, FS-O, NHL.TV).
Columbus (45-31-4) is even in points with the Montreal Canadiens (43-30-8); however, the Blue Jackets have a game in hand and hold the first tiebreaker with 44 regulation/overtime wins (ROW) to 41 for the Canadiens. Each team plays Saturday, the final day of the regular season; Columbus visits the Ottawa Senators and the Canadiens host the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson has set NHL career highs in goals (41), assists (28) and points (69) this season and needs one goal to break a tie with Rick Nash for the single-season Blue Jackets record; Nash scored 41 goals in 2003-04. Atkinson has 10 goals in 23 games against the Rangers.
Hurricanes reach playoffs for first time since 2009
The Carolina Hurricanes (45-29-7) advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 when they won 3-1 against the New Jersey Devils 3-1 at PNC Arena on Thursday.
Video: The Hurricanes storm back into the NHL Playoffs
The Hurricanes ended the third-longest absence from the playoffs in NHL history. The Edmonton Oilers (2006-07 through 2015-16) and Florida Panthers (2000-01 through 2010-11) went 10 seasons between trips to the playoffs. The Devils/Colorado Rockies (1978-79 through 1986-87) also went nine seasons between playoff appearances.
The victory against the Devils was Carolina's 29th in 2019 (29-12-2). Only the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning (30-9-2) have more.
Comeback puts Avalanche into playoffs
The Colorado Avalanche overcame a two-goal deficit to get at least a point for the third straight game (2-0-1), and defenseman Erik Johnson scored at 1:49 of overtime for a playoff-clinching 3-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets at Pepsi Center.
Video: WPG@COL: Johnson wins it in OT after Avalanche clinch
Colorado (38-29-14) was assured of making the playoffs in back-to-back seasons when the third period ended tied 2-2. The Avalanche trailed 2-0 before defenseman Tyson Barrie scored at 5:17 of the second period and forward Carl Soderberg tied the game at 10:35 of the third period.
The Avalanche have made the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since an 11-year run from 1994-95, their last season as the Quebec Nordiques, through 2005-06. That stretch includes Stanley Cup championships in 1996 and 2001.
Penguins clinch playoff berth for 13th straight season
The Pittsburgh Penguins extended the League's longest active playoff streak to 13 seasons by winning 4-1 against the Detroit Red Wings at PPG Paints Arena. Penguins center Sidney Crosby had a goal and two assists, giving him 98 points (34 goals, 64 assists). He can reach 100 points for the sixth time in his NHL career with two points in Pittsburgh's season finale against the Rangers on Saturday.
The Penguins have qualified for the playoffs in every season since 2006-07, Crosby's second in the NHL. The Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators own the next-longest streaks, at five seasons each.
Capitals wrap up first place in Metropolitan Division
The Capitals won the Metropolitan Division for the fourth consecutive season with a 2-1 win against the Canadiens at Capital One Arena. Nic Dowd's goal at 2:58 of the second period was the game-winner.
Video: MTL@WSH: Dowd snaps shot past Price
The Capitals have won four consecutive division titles once before, finishing first in the Southeast Division each season from 2007-08 to 2010-11. During divisional play, which ran from 1926-27 to 1937-38 and since the first expansion in 1967,
the only other team to win at least four straight division titles on multiple occasions is the Boston Bruins, who won the American Division from 1927-28 through 1930-31 and the Adams Division from 1975-76 through 1978-79.
Three teams chasing first place in Central Division
The Nashville Predators rallied after allowing two power-play goals in the first period towin 3-2 against the Vancouver Canucks at Bridgestone Arena and move into first place in the Central Division. The Predators (46-29-6) are one point ahead of the Jets (46-30-5) and the St. Louis Blues (44-28-9), who scored five goals in a 9:41 span of the first period in their 7-3 win against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Video: PHI@STL: Blues set club record with five-goal 1st
The Jets hold the ROW tiebreaker against the Predators and Blues; they have 44 to 42 each for Nashville and St. Louis. Each team finishes its season Saturday.
Jordan Binnington made 26 saves for the Blues and is 23-5-1 in 31 games (29 starts), with a 1.89 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage. He can become the first rookie goalie to finish with a GAA of 1.89 or lower since Al Rollins of the Toronto Maple Leafs (1.77) in 1950-51 (minimum 20 games).
Lightning within one win of NHL single-season record
The Tampa Bay Lightning won their 61st game with a 3-1 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. They can tie the NHL single-season record of 62 held by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings with a victory at Boston on Saturday.
The Lightning (61-16-4) lead the NHL with 126 points, the fifth-most in League history. The road victory was their 29th, second in NHL history to the 2005-06 Red Wings (31).
Tampa Bay leads the NHL in scoring with 319 goals (including shootout-deciding goals), the most by any team since 1995-96 when the Penguins (362), Avalanche (326) and Red Wings (325) all exceeded that number. All three of those teams also reached the conference finals, with Colorado winning the Stanley Cup.
Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov scored his 40th goal and boosted his NHL-leading point total to 126 (40 goals, 86 assists). He is one point from the NHL record for most in a season by a player born in Russia, held by Alexander Mogilny who had 127 points (76 goals, 51 assists) with the Buffalo Sabres in 1992-93.
Kucherov is the third Lightning player to score at least 40 goals this season, joining forwards Steven Stamkos (44) and Brayden Point (41). Tampa Bay is the first team with three 40-goal scorers in a season since the 1995-96 Penguins (Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Petr Nedved).
Video: TBL@TOR: Kucherov joins Stamkos, Point with 40 goals
Thornton, Burns reach milestones in Sharks win
Forward Joe Thornton and defenseman Brent Burns each reached a milestone in the San Jose Sharks' 3-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place.
Thornton's assist on Marcus Sorensen's first-period goal was the 1,064th of his NHL career, moving him past Steve Yzerman for eighth place on the all-time list.
Video: SJS@EDM: Thornton finds Sorensen for milestone assist
Burns scored a goal in the first period and had an assist on Gustav Nyquist's game-winning in the second period, giving him 81 points (15 goals, 66 assists). The 34-year-old is the sixth player in NHL history to have his first season of at least 80 points at age 34 or older. He and Nicklas Lidstrom (2005-06) are the only defensemen to do so.