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Playoff Platter: Wild one step closer to postseason

Minnesota creating separation in Western Conference; Metropolitan race tightens

NHL.com @NHL

The Minnesota Wild took a big step toward clinching a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 to move five points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche in the race for the second wild card from the Western Conference.

The Avalanche managed to score a goal against the St. Louis Blues, who were trying for their fifth straight win by shutout, but were defeated 3-1 at Scottrade Center. The Nashville Predators had a chance to become the seventh team from the Western Conference to clinch a playoff berth but lost 5-2 to the Dallas Stars.

With less than two weeks to go in the regular season, there are nine playoff berths available. Each day, NHL.com takes a look at the playoff picture.

No teams can clinch a playoff berth Wednesday.

KEY GAME
Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360): The Capitals, who clinched the Presidents' Trophy on Monday, have nothing to play for from a team perspective. Goalie Braden Holtby is two wins from tying Martin Brodeur's single-season record of 48, but the Capitals have locked up home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. The Flyers have everything to play for. They are even in points (87) with the Detroit Red Wings for the final wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference with two games in hand. Detroit, which had a chance to vault the Flyers and Boston Bruins with a win Tuesday, lost 4-3 to the Montreal Canadiens.

Video: BOS@NJD: Boucher's PPG puts the Devils on top

CANADA LIVES
Boston's pain was Canada's gain. The Bruins fell to 3-6-1 in their past 10 games with a 2-1 loss against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. The loss kept the Ottawa Senators, who were off, alive for a playoff berth. Ottawa is the lone team from Canada still in contention for the playoffs. If Ottawa, which plays at the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV), is eliminated, it would mark the first time since 1969-70 that not one Canadian team made the postseason.

RALLY TIME
Things got tighter in the Metropolitan Division on Tuesday with the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders each earning a shootout win. With a 5-4 victory against the Buffalo Sabres, the Penguins, who trailed 3-0 in the first period, moved to within one point of the New York Rangers for second place in the division. The Islanders defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 at Barclays Center to stay three points behind the Penguins with a game in hand.

SPOILER ALERT
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in last place in the Atlantic Division but are playing a big part in the race for first. The Maple Leafs prevented the Florida Panthers from moving ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 5-2 victory at BB&T Center on Tuesday. The Lightning drew even in points with the Panthers (93) with a 3-0 win against the Maple Leafs on Monday. Toronto plays Florida again April 4. The Panthers and Lightning each have six games remaining, and Tampa Bay holds the tiebreaker with a 41-35 advantage in regulation/overtime wins.

TRIPLE DIGITS
With victories Tuesday, the Stars and Blues each reached 101 points and lead the Los Angeles Kings by six points for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. St. Louis and Dallas each has five games left and do not play each other. Dallas has three regulation wins more than St. Louis.

Video: COL@STL: Backes opens the scoring with a deflection

Best potential first-round matchup:
Boston Bruins vs. Florida Panthers:
The last time Jaromir Jagr was in a playoff game, he went to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final with the Bruins. Florida, by virtue of the regulation/overtime wins tiebreaker, is second in the Atlantic Division. Boston, which could have dropped into the final wild card from the Eastern Conference had Detroit won Tuesday, is third.

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