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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Penguins can regain wild card spot in East

Hurricanes try to remain first in Metropolitan; Kings look to move into second in Pacific @NHLdotcom

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2023 NHL postseason. There are 12 days left in the regular season and the races in each of the four divisions are tight. The top three teams in each of the four divisions and the next two highest-place finishers in each conference reach the playoffs.

Here is a look at the NHL standings and everything else that could impact the playoff picture.

Here are the Stanley Cup Playoffs clinching scenarios for April 2:


The Los Angeles Kings will clinch a playoff berth:

If they get at least one point against the Vancouver Canucks (8 p.m. ET; SNP, BSW, ESPN+, SN NOW)

OR if the Winnipeg Jets lose to the New Jersey Devils in any fashion (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN3, MSGSN2, SN NOW)


On Tap

There are nine games on the NHL schedule Sunday, each with playoff implications.

New York Rangers at Washington Capitals (1 p.m. ET; TNT, SN360, TVAS)

The Rangers (44-21-11) are third in the Metropolitan Division, five points behind the New Jersey Devils. New York has lost its past two games; 2-1 to the Devils on Thursday and 3-2 in overtime to the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. The Capitals (34-33-9) are clinging to fading playoff hopes. They can move within six points of the Florida Panthers for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference with five games remaining. Washington lost 5-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday and has one win in its past seven games (1-4-2).

Boston Bruins at St. Louis Blues (3:30 p.m. ET; TNT, SN360, TVAS)

The Bruins (59-12-5) are four wins away from setting the NHL record for most wins in a season. They have 59 after defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 thanks to David Pastrnak's hat trick at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday. The Bruins have six games remaining. The Blues (35-35-6) will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss of any kind.

New York Islanders at Carolina Hurricanes (6 p.m. ET; BSSO, MSGSN, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Hurricanes (48-18-9) will try to stay in first place in the Metropolitan Division. They lead the Devils, who play Sunday at the Winnipeg Jets, by one point. Carolina won 3-0 at the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. The Islanders (39-29-9) will try to tighten their grip on the first wild card from the Eastern Conference, where they lead the Panthers by two points and Penguins by three. They have five games remaining.

Ottawa Senators at Columbus Blue Jackets (6 p.m. ET; BSOH, TSN5, RDS, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Senators (37-34-5) are trying to stay alive in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference. But it's tough. They are six points out of a playoff spot with six games remaining after losing 3-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. The good news is they play the Blue Jackets (23-44-8), who lost 7-0 to the Panthers on Saturday and have allowed at least five goals in 10 of their past 13 games. 

Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins (6 p.m. ET; SN1, SNE, ATTSN-PT, NBCSP+, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Penguins will move back into playoff position if they defeat their cross-state rival. Pittsburgh fell out of playoff position in the Eastern Conference on Saturday, when it lost 4-3 to Boston and Florida won against Columbus. The Panthers have a one point lead on the Penguins for the second wild card into the playoffs. The Penguins have a game in hand. Penguins defenseman Kris Letang is expected to play his 1,000th NHL regular-season game. The Flyers (29-33-13) were eliminated from postseason contention with their 6-3 loss to the Sabres on Saturday.

New Jersey Devils at Winnipeg Jets (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN3, MSGSN2, SN NOW)

The Devils (48-20-8) could move into first place in the Metropolitan Division, though that also depends on what the Hurricanes do against the Islanders. New Jersey is in second place, one point behind first-place Carolina after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 6-3 on Saturday. Carolina has a game in hand on New Jersey. The Jets (42-31-3) are coming off a 6-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday. They can move within one point of the idle Seattle Kraken for the first wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference and are two points ahead of the Calgary Flames for the second wild card. The Flames also play Sunday, hosting the Anahaim Ducks.

Detroit Red Wings at Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET; SNO, BSDET, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Maple Leafs (45-20-10) will try to extend their lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division. The Maple Leafs have a four-point lead after defeating the Senators 3-0 on Saturday. Toronto and Tampa Bay will play each other in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Red Wings (33-33-9) are still mathematically alive in the playoff chase, but 10 points out of the second wild card with seven games to play.

Los Angeles Kings at Vancouver Canucks (8 p.m. ET; SNP, BSW, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Kings (44-22-10) will clinch a playoff berth with at least one point Sunday or if the Jets lose in any fashion to the Devils. Los Angeles is one point behind the second-place Edmonton Oilers and three back of the first-place Vegas Golden Knights. The Canucks (34-34-7) will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss of any kind.

Anaheim Ducks at Calgary Flames (8 p.m. ET; SNW, BSSC, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Flames (35-26-15) can tie the Jets in points for the second wild card from the West. The Jets and Flames each have six games remaining and each play Sunday. The Jets currently hold the tiebreaker with four more regulation wins (32-28). Calgary has won three games in a row and four of five. The Ducks (23-43-10) have lost seven in a row and have been eliminated from postseason contention.


If playoffs started Sunday

Here is a look at the matchups for the first round as they stand entering games Sunday:

Eastern Conference

(1A) Boston Bruins vs. (WC2) Florida Panthers

(1M) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (WC1) New York Islanders

(2A) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (3A) Tampa Bay Lightning

(2M) New Jersey Devils vs. (3M) New York Rangers

Western Conference

(1P) Vegas Golden Knights vs. (WC2) Winnipeg Jets

(1C) Minnesota Wild vs. (WC1) Seattle Kraken

(2C) Colorado Avalanche vs. (3C) Dallas Stars

(2P) Edmonton Oilers vs. (3P) Los Angeles


About Last Night

There were 13 games Saturday, 12 with playoff implications.

Nashville Predators 6, St. Louis Blues 1: The Predators (38-29-8) moved to within three points of the Jets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. Tommy Novak had four points (one goal, three assists) and Luke Evangelista had three (one goal, two assists) to lead the Predators. Nashville had six different goal scorers and Juuse Saros made 21 saves at Bridgestone Arena.

Boston Bruins 4, Pittsburgh Penguins 3: Pastrnak had a hat trick, including the game-winning goal at 17:34 of the third period, and the Bruins inched closer to the NHL record for most wins in a season with the win at PPG Paints Arena. Boston has 59 wins in 76 games. It needs four wins in its last six games to set the record. The Bruins also prevented the Penguins from keeping pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Pittsburgh later fell out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference when the Florida Panthers passed them by defeating the Blue Jackets 7-0. Penguins forward Jake Guentzel scored for the fourth straight game, but the Penguins are 3-7-0 in their past 10 games.  

Carolina Hurricanes 3, Montreal Canadiens 0: The Hurricanes held the Canadiens to 14 shots and Antti Raanta stopped them all for his fourth shutout of the season. It was the goalie's first appearance since March 7. Brady Skjei, Paul Stastny and Sebastian Aho scored. The Hurricanes ended a three-game skid (0-2-1) and stayed ahead of the Devils for first place in the Metropolitan Division by one point. The Devils won 6-3 against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.

Florida Panthers 7, Columbus Blue Jackets 0: Carter Verhaeghe scored four goals to give him 40 this season and the Panthers passed the Penguins by one point to move into the second wild card into the playoffs from the East. Alex Lyon, making his third straight start, made 22 saves for first NHL shutout in his 34th game. Florida has won three in a row, all on the road, since losing four straight.

Buffalo Sabres 6, Philadelphia Flyers 3: Alex Tuch had a hat trick and the Sabres extended their point streak to five games (4-0-1), winning at Wells Fargo Center to stay close in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference. They are four points behind the Panthers for the second wild card with two games in hand. Buffalo scored five straight goals after going down 1-0 at 16:35 of the first period. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 38 saves. Morgan Frost scored two goals for the Flyers, who were eliminated from postseason contention. They had a seven-game point streak (5-0-2) end. 

Tampa Bay Lightning 5, New York Islanders 0: The Lightning clinched a playoff berth for the sixth straight season and locked in an Eastern Conference First Round series against the Maple Leafs. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 38 saves for his second shutout in his past three games and fourth this season. Brayden Point had three points (one goal, two assists). The Lightning won their third straight game, all by four or more goals. Tampa Bay is in third place in the Atlantic Division, four points behind second-place Toronto. The Islanders failed to gain ground in the Eastern Conference wild card race. They are the first wild card from the East, but only two points ahead of the Panthers and three ahead of the Penguins. Ilya Sorokin allowed four goals on 21 shots before being pulled in the second period.

Toronto Maple Leafs 3, Ottawa Senators 0: Ilya Samsonov made 31 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and the Maple Leafs reached 100 points for the second straight season. Michael Bunting, William Nylander and Radim Zohorna scored in the second period. Toronto stayed four points ahead of the Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division. The Senators fell six points back of the Panthers for the second wild card from the East with six games to play.

New Jersey Devils 6, Chicago Blackhawks 3: The Devils had six different goal scorers and Jack Hughes had two assists. New Jersey kept pace with the Hurricanes for first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Devils are in second place, one point behind the Hurricanes. Timo Meier, Dougie Hamilton, Jesper Boqvist and Erik Haula each had a goal and an assist. Mackenzie Blackwood made 14 saves. Jonathan Toews played in his first game since Jan. 28. The Blackhawks captain had an assist and won eight of 12 face-offs in 14:00 of ice time.

Colorado Avalanche 5, Dallas Stars 2: Mikko Rantanen had a goal and three assists at Ball Arena and the Avalanche gained ground in the race for first place in the Central Division. Colorado is one point behind the first-place Minnesota Wild and tied with the Dallas Stars. But the Avalanche have a game in hand on both the Wild and Stars. The Wild lost to the Golden Knights 4-1 on Saturday. Nathan MacKinnon also scored two goals. The Stars got goals from Tyler Seguin, Joe Pavelski and Jason Robertson. Jake Oettinger made 27 saves. Dallas had a two-game winning streak end.

Edmonton Oilers 6, Anaheim Ducks 0: The Oilers clinched a playoff berth on home ice at Rogers Place, and Leon Draisaitl had a hat trick, scoring three different ways, to reach 50 goals for the second straight season and third time in the NHL. Draisaitl scored at even strength and on the power play in the second period, and had a shorthanded goal in the third period, which was his 50th of the season. Connor McDavid had two points, including his 62nd goal, and the Oilers' captain now has 146 points this season, four shy of becoming the sixth different skater in NHL history to reach 150 points in a season. Edmonton has won four in a row and is second in the Pacific Division, one point ahead of the third-place Kings and two behind the first-place Golden Knights. Vegas and Los Angeles each have a game in hand.

Los Angeles Kings 3, Seattle Kraken 1: Pheonix Copley made 25 saves and Kevin Fiala had a goal and an assist to help the Kings keep pace in the Pacific Division at Climate Pledge Arena. Fiala did not play in the Kings 2-0 loss to the Oilers on Thursday because of an undisclosed injury. Alex Iafallo had two assists. The Kings had lost two in a row. Oliver Bjorkstrand scored for the Kraken, who are the first wild card into the playoffs from the West. They are three points ahead of the Jets and five up on the Flames with a game in hand on each.

Vegas Golden Knights 4, Minnesota Wild 1: The Golden Knights became the first team in the Western Conference and fifth in the NHL to reach 100 points this season. They maintained their two-point lead for first place in the Pacific Division with the win against the Central Division leading Wild at T-Mobile Arena. Laurent Broissoit made 29 saves. Chandler Stephenson (one goal, one assist) and Jack Eichel (two assists) each had two points. The Wild had a six-game point streak (5-0-1) end. Matt Boldy scored his 10th goal in seven games and 29th of the season. Marc-Andre Fleury made 39 saves. 

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