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Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz: Flames can be eliminated from contention

Panthers pass Lightning in Central race; Penguins wrap up first in East

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs Buzz, a daily look at the races for the 2021 NHL postseason. There are 10 days left in the regular season and one of the 16 spots in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is available, one in the seven-team Scotia North Division. The four berths in the eight-team MassMutual East Division, the eight-team Honda West Division and the eight-team Discover Central Division have been clinched. Still, the battles for playoff positions in each division are tight.

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

Clinching scenarios for Sunday

No team can clinch a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth Sunday.

On Tap 

There are two games on the NHL schedule Sunday, one with playoff implications

Ottawa Senators at Calgary Flames (8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SNW, TSN5, RDS2, NHL.TV): The Flames need to defeat the Senators to remain in contention for the final playoff berth in the North. Sixth-place Calgary trails the fourth-place Montreal Canadiens by 10 points with five games remaining and has one fewer regulation win, which is the first tiebreaker. The Senators, who have won three in a row, have been eliminated from playoff contention.

About last night

There were 14 games on NHL schedule Saturday, 12 with playoff implications:

Nashville Predators 3, Carolina Hurricanes 1: The Predators clinched the final playoff berth in the Central and a matchup with the first-place Hurricanes in the first round. Luke Kunin scored two goals and Mikael Granlund had two assists for Nashville, which qualified for the playoffs for the seventh straight season and eliminated the idle Dallas Stars from contention. Carolina, which has clinched first in the division, and Nashville play each other again in their regular-season finale Monday.

Florida Panthers 5, Tampa Bay Lightning 1: Alex Wennberg scored his second NHL hat trick to help the Panthers move two points ahead of the Lightning into second place in the Central. The Panthers and Lightning, who will face each other in the first round of the playoffs, complete their regular seasons when they play each other again Monday. Florida, which has won five straight games, needs one point Monday to secure the No. 2 seed and home-ice advantage in the playoff series against Tampa Bay.

Pittsburgh Penguins 1, Buffalo Sabres 0: Maxime Lagace made 29 saves for his first NHL shutout and the Penguins clinched first place in the East when the Washington Capitals failed to win in regulation against the Philadelphia Flyers. It's the first division title for Pittsburgh since it finished first in the Metropolitan Division in 2013-14. The Penguins, who finished the regular season 37-16-3, will face the Boston Bruins or the New York Islanders in the first round of the playoffs. The Sabres, who didn't qualify for the playoffs, finished 15-34-7.

Washington Capitals 2, Philadelphia Flyers 1 (OT): Conor Sheary scored with 59.4 seconds left in overtime after Lars Eller pulled Washington even with 39.8 seconds remaining in regulation, but it had to settle for securing the second seed in the East. The Capitals, who play their regular-season finale against the Bruins on Tuesday, will have home-ice advantage against the Bruins or the Islanders in the first round of the playoffs. The Flyers, who have been eliminated from playoff contention, finish their season against the New Jersey Devils on Monday.

New York Rangers 5, Boston Bruins 4: Boston was outscored 4-3 in the third period and can no longer finish higher than third in the East. Trailing the second-place Capitals by four points with two games left and unable to catch them in the regulation wins tiebreaker, the Bruins lead the fourth-place Islanders by one point heading into their game Monday before closing their regular season against the Capitals on Tuesday. The Rangers, who failed to qualify for the playoffs, finished 27-23-6.

New York Islanders 5, New Jersey Devils 1: Brock Nelson scored two goals and the Islanders pulled within one point of the Bruins for third in the East. New York plays its final regular-season game against Boston, which has one game in hand, Monday. New Jersey, which has been eliminated from playoff contention, closes its season against Philadelphia on Monday. 

Toronto Maple Leafs 3, Montreal Canadiens 2: Pierre Engvall, William Nylander and Mitchell Marner scored in the second period for Toronto, which came back from trailing 2-0 to win and clinch first place in the North and prevent Montreal from securing a playoff berth. It's the Maple Leafs' first division title since 1999-2000, when they won the Northeast Division. The fourth-place Canadiens, who have lost three in a row, remained two points behind the third-place Winnipeg Jets and need one point in their final two games to clinch a playoff berth. 

Edmonton Oilers 4, Vancouver Canucks 3: Connor McDavid scored four points (one goal, three assists) to reach 100 points in his 53rd game of the season and Edmonton clinched the second seed in the North and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs by moving nine points ahead of third-place Winnipeg with each team having three games remaining. The seventh-place Canucks remained 14 points behind the Canadiens with seven games remaining and are one point from being eliminated from playoff contention.

Ottawa Senators 4, Winnipeg Jets 2: Tim Stutzle scored his first NHL hat trick and the Senators won their third straight game to prevent the third-place Jets from increasing their two-point lead on the fourth-place Canadiens in the North. After falling nine points behind the second-place Oilers, the Jets can finish no higher than third in the division and will open the playoffs on the road. The Senators, who have two games remaining, have been eliminated from contention.

Vegas Golden Knights 4, St. Louis Blues 1: Reilly Smith scored his first NHL hat trick and Vegas won its third consecutive game to maintain its four-point lead on the Colorado Avalanche for first in the West. The Golden Knights have two games remaining, including against the second-place Avalanche on Monday. The Avalanche have three games left. The Blues, who had their eight-game point streak (5-0-3) end, will finish fourth in the West after clinching a playoff berth Friday and will face the division winner in the first round.

Colorado Avalanche 3, Los Angeles Kings 2: Devon Toews scored two goals for the Avalanche, who kept pace with the Golden Knights in the race for first in the West and remained second, one point ahead of the third-place Minnesota Wild. Colorado has three games left. Vegas and Minnesota each has two games remaining. Los Angeles has been eliminated from playoff contention.

Minnesota 4, Anaheim Ducks 3 (OT): Victor Rask scored at 2:46 of overtime and the Wild remained one point behind the Avalanche for second in the West. Minnesota, which is 4-0-2 in its past six games, also stayed five points behind first-place Vegas, but with two games remaining no longer has chance for the top seed in the division. The Ducks have been eliminated from playoff contention.

If playoffs started Sunday

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

North Division 

1. Toronto Maple Leafs vs. 4. Montreal Canadiens
2. Edmonton Oilers vs. 3. Winnipeg Jets

East Division 

1. Pittsburgh Penguins vs. 4. New York Islanders
2. Washington Capitals vs. 3. Boston Bruins 

Central Division  

1. Carolina Hurricanes vs. 4. Nashville Predators  
2. Florida Panthers vs. 3. Tampa Bay Lightning

West Division  

1. Vegas Golden Knights vs. 4. St. Louis Blues 
2. Colorado Avalanche vs. 3. Minnesota Wild

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