They’re five points back with three games remaining, but the Buffalo Sabres
remain alive in the race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
’s 50-foot shot beat Alex Auld
39 seconds into overtime, as the Sabres fought off elimination on Sunday with a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins
at HSBC Arena.
Buffalo remains in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, five points behind three teams vying for a playoff spot. The overtime loss gave the Bruins 91 points, which ties them with the New York Rangers
and Philadelphia Flyers
. All three teams have 40 wins this season. The win pulled the Sabres within two points of the Washington Capitals
, who were idle on Sunday. Buffalo will visit Toronto on Tuesday.
"We're not going to get ahead of ourselves," said Sabres goalie Ryan Miller
, who made 17 saves. "We're going to need some help, but we have to help ourselves first or else it's all a moot point."
scored the lone goal for the Bruins, which came shorthanded just 2:33 into the game. The loss snapped Boston’s three-game winning streak, but Claude Julien
’s club was able to pick up a much-needed point in the standings. The Bruins are attempting to make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
"It's been a good week for us," Julien said. "If somebody would have told me that we had a chance for seven out of eight points this week, we certainly would have taken it."
Buffalo’s Toni Lydman
erased the 1-0 deficit with a power play goal at 10:15 of the opening period. With Glen Murray
in the penalty box, Lydman was able to get behind Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara
and redirected a feed from Paul Gaustad
past Auld to make it 1-1.
But Auld was sharp for the remainder of regulation, and assured his team of a point when he robbed Gaustad while falling backward with just over a minute remaining in the third period.
"It's not like we're the only team Buffalo's chasing," said Auld, who made 28 saves, including three key stops in the final 2:30 of regulation. "It would have been great to put another team out of the picture, but they're still here and give them credit for their battle."
Penguins 3, Rangers 1 | Video
Sidney Crosby had two assists and Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves as Pittsburgh gained control of the Eastern Conference with a victory over New York in the first of a home-and-home series at Mellon Arena.
The win was the 10th in 13 games for the Penguins, who went unbeaten on home ice in March. It also gave Pittsburgh 99 points, one more than the Montreal Canadiens. Both teams have three games remaining in the regular season.
The Penguins can clinch their first division title in 10 years on Monday night when they visit the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
"I can't wait for about 10 days, to start this thing (the playoffs)," said Maxime Talbot, who scored in the final minute of regulation. "It's good that it's all (division) games like this until the end of the season. Every little play can change the game and that's playoff hockey, and that's what we're in right now."
The Rangers had trouble staying out of the penalty box on Sunday, as the Pens were awarded eight power plays. The lack of discipline ultimately led to New York’s third regulation loss in its last 21 games. The Rangers were also blanked by Fleury for the final 56 minutes, as Brandon Dubinsky’s power play goal came 3:03 into the game.
Marian Hossa tied it at 10:21 of the first, and Evgeni Malkin capitalized on a two-man advantage less than eight minutes later, when he ripped a slap shot past Henrik Lundqvist for his 46th goal of the season.
"We came out and had a really good start, but penalties got us in trouble," said veteran forward Brendan Shanahan. "Until they got their 5-on-3 they only had two shots on goal."
By failing to come away with any points, the Rangers find themselves in a three-way tie for the No. 6 seed in the East with Boston and Philadelphia with 91 points. The Washington Capitals are also knocking on the door with 88. After appearing to be all but locked in to a playoff spot, New York finds itself in must-win mode on Monday.
"You know, our goal is to win every game we play, but realistically that is not going to happen," Shanahan said. "But it just means that (Monday) night's game is more of a desperate situation for us to get a win."
The Penguins received a minor scare when Malkin’s face connected with Dubinsky’s skate blade late in the second period. Malkin left the game but was able to return for the third period.
"I saw that big cut, and that's really scary – it's really close to his eye," Crosby said. "But he came back and got away with only some stitches."
Red Wings 1, Predators 0, OT | Video
Seeing one of his records broken probably wasn’t one of Gordie Howe’s birthday wishes, but Johan Franzen did just that when he notched his sixth game-winning goal in a month in Detroit’s overtime win over Nashville on Sunday.
Howe, who turns 80 on Monday, was honored before the game at Joe Louis Arena. His record – which was shared with Henrik Zetterberg – was broken with 1:39 remaining in overtime, when Franzen fired Zetterberg’s rebound past a scorching-hot Dan Ellis. It was Franzen’s 14th goal in 13 games.
"I had no idea. It's probably the only record I'm going to break," Franzen said. "I'm sorry I had to spoil his birthday. It was the last day I could do it, too."
Franzen’s goal ended Ellis’ shutout streak at 233:39.
"It was good," Ellis said of his streak, which is the fifth longest of the modern era. "Right now, we're at a point where you put all of your personal stuff aside."
Red Wings goalie Dominik Hasek returned after missing the last two games due to the flu. He stopped all 22 shots he faced for the 81st shutout of his Hall of Fame career, the biggest coming 1:40 into overtime, when he denied Ryan Suter on a breakaway.
"I hesitated at first," Hasek said. "I was thinking about poke-checking him at the blue line but then I changed decision and was waiting patiently on him. I was in a great position, up high and out of the crease. He hit my blocker."
Wild 3, Avalanche 2, OT | Video
Minnesota had a playoff spot clinched just moments before the opening faceoff thanks to Detroit’s win over Nashville, but Marian Gaborik’s goal at 3:10 of overtime inched the Wild closer to Northwest Division title.
It was Gaborik’s second goal of the night and his 40th of the season, as Minnesota picked up a thrilling victory over Colorado at Xcel Energy Center. The loss put a halt to the Avs’ three-game winning streak.
"I don't think there was any doubt in any of our minds that we'd make the playoffs," Wild forward Brian Rolston said. "We're trying to stay on top of our division right now, that's our main focus."
Colorado – which played without center Peter Forsberg (groin) – did pick up a point in the standings, as the Avalanche gained sole possession of sixth place in the Western Conference with 91 points, moving one ahead of No. 7 Calgary.
It was a gritty way for the Avs to pick up a point, considering they fell behind 2-0 in the first period. Gaborik and Rolston beat Jose Theodore in a span of less than four minutes, but Colorado fought back to tie the game in the second on goals from Jeff Finger and Ruslan Salei. Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom – who made 24 saves – improved to 9-1-4 since Feb. 27.
"We're in a position where we can control our fate and I think that is where we wanted to be and we still have to play our best before the playoffs start," Salei said.
Minnesota has won three straight and is 6-2-1 in its last nine games. The Wild can secure the No. 3 seed in the West by winning the Northwest Division, which they now lead by four points over the Avs.
"I like very much what we did in the third because when a team comes back from a two-goal deficit, they're on the run, they feel good and they feel that they'll win the game," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "You have to respond, and we did."
Blackhawks 5, Blue Jackets 4, SO | Video
Much like the Buffalo Sabres, Chicago used a dramatic victory on Sunday to stay alive in the race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Rookie sensation Patrick Kane scored the lone goal in the shootout, as the Blackhawks pulled to within three points of No. 8 Nashville with a victory over Columbus at the United Center. Chicago – which has three games remaining in the regular season – is 4-1-1 in its last six games.
After Jonathan Toews gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead 3:54 into the game, the Blue Jackets responded with three unanswered goals. Andrew Murray and Michael Peca scored late in the first to give Columbus the lead, before Nikolai Zherdev made it a 3-1 game just 3:36 into the second.
But the Hawks fought back to tie the game with a pair of power-play goals before the period expired. Jason Williams made it 3-2 at 8:19, and Patrick Sharp notched his 36th goal of the season with 2:43 left.
"We jumped over a few hurdles in this game today," Toews said. "It's a game that brings you together as a team. We didn't get frustrated.”
Indeed Chicago didn’t – even after Columbus regained the lead when Derek MacKenzie beat Nikolai Khabibulin 3:57 into the third. Yanic Perrault tied the game with 6:18 to play, when he jammed Cam Barker’s rebound past Fredrik Norrena to make it 4-4.
"We made some adjustments, just shot pucks more," Blackhawks coach Denis Savard said.
"That's all we talked about, and we capitalized."
Kane capitalized when he set a new franchise mark with his 48th assist in the first period, breaking Savard’s rookie record set in 1980-81. It was matched by Steve Larmer in 1982-83.
"I thought about it the last couple of games," Kane said of the record. "Now it's out of the way and I can just go out and play hockey. That's a bonus."
The loss officially eliminated the Blue Jackets from playoff contention. Columbus is the lone NHL franchise to have never reached the postseason.
"There's nothing like winning, that's how simple it is," Norrena said. "If you don't play your heart out in this League, you don't belong here."
Sharks 3, Coyotes 1 | Video
Joe Thornton scored twice in the first period, as San Jose won its third straight and officially eliminated Phoenix from postseason contention.
With their 17th victory in 19 games, the Sharks kept their slim Presidents’ Trophy hopes alive. San Jose trails League-leading Detroit by five points, with each team having only three games remaining.
While Thornton already leads the NHL with 65 assists, the Sharks’ No. 1 center has also been finding the back of the net an awful lot lately. Following Sunday’s output, Thornton now has eight goals in his last five games. His first goal on Sunday came just 14 seconds into the contest, when he jammed home a loose puck in front past Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
"When you're scoring like that, you just want to shoot everything you get a chance to," Thornton said. "Right now, it's just finding the back of the net. Just keep shooting, and you never know."
With the loss, the Coyotes fell seven points behind the Nashville Predators for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Phoenix has only three games remaining, which officially eliminates Wayne Gretzky’s club from the postseason.
"We've had a nice turnaround this season with our young players," Gretzky said. "A week ago, we were right in the thick of things to make the playoff race. Nobody really anticipated that or expected it. ... This has been a tough three or four games for us because they battled so hard all year, (and) all of sudden you're out of it. That's made it tough. I talked to them today, and I told them that you have to have pride in yourself and show up and play hard."
Coyotes captain Shane Doan erased the 1-0 deficit at 6:33 of the first, but Thornton restored San Jose’s lead when he notched his second goal of the game with 2:29 left in the opening period. Curtis Brown rounded out the scoring at 7:10 of the third.
"We had a chance this year, and we dropped the ball completely this time," Doan said. "It's frustrating. As a player who hasn't been in the playoffs for a while, I want to go back. We had opportunities to make the playoffs, and we couldn't."
With 106 points and three games to play, the Sharks easily could surpass the franchise record of 107 points set last year. Three more wins would tie the club record of 51, also set last season. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves for San Jose, which has notched at least a point in every game since Feb. 20.
"The guys were doing all the little detail things," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "I thought we totally controlled the game. They were still alive in the playoff race. They had something to play for. We didn't let them. Especially when you score in the first shift, we let them know early that we wanted to win the game."
Canucks 6, Flames 2 | Video
Trevor Linden circa 1996 showed up at GM Place on Sunday night and put Vancouver back in playoff position.
Linden, who had just five goals in 55 games entering Sunday’s action, scored twice and Roberto Luongo made 27 saves as the Canucks gained control of the No. 8 seed in the West with an impressive win over Calgary.
The victory snapped a four-game slide for the Canucks, who moved one point ahead of Nashville. The Predators picked up only one point on Sunday in a 1-0 overtime loss at Detroit.
"It feels good, what can I say?" Linden said. "Huge night, huge game for us, obviously. It's just nice to have it go our way a little bit. We had a tough week last week. It's nice to win the way we did and for me, personally, it was nice to get a little luck around the net."
The Flames lost for the second time in as many nights and fell five points behind Minnesota for the Northwest Division lead, which translates into the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
With 732 points, Linden – a healthy scratch 23 times this season – trails only Markus Naslund (755) for the most in franchise history. He hadn’t scored twice in a game since Feb. 25, 2003. Both of his tallies came less than five minutes apart in the second period. Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff was pulled after Linden’s second goal. He allowed four goals on 13 shots.
Linden received a huge ovation from the capacity crowd of 18,630 when he was named the game’s first star.
"I didn't exactly know what I was supposed to do, it's been a while since I was first star," Linden joked. "The fans hadn't seen me for a long time after a game, so it was pretty special."
There was nothing special about Sunday as far as Flames coach Mike Keenan was concerned. Calgary is just two points ahead of Vancouver in the division and conference. David Moss and Matthew Lombardi scored for the Flames, who return to the ice on Tuesday night at Edmonton.
"Our defensive zone coverage was real poor down low – I guess that's what bothered me the most," Keenan said.
Material from wire services and team Web sites was used in this report.