Rangers 6, Panthers 1
New York used a fast start and a furious finish to put away lowly Florida and lock up a victory it had to have in the push for the playoffs.
Derick Brassard and Rick Nash scored power-play goals in the opening 10 minutes, and Mats Zuccarello, Brassard and Brad Richards turned a tight game into a rout with goals 3:25 apart late in the third period of the Rangers' win on Thursday night.
The Rangers remained in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, tied with Winnipeg for the final playoff spot. New York has a game in hand.
Zuccarello and Brassard both finished with two goals, Nash and Rangers captain Ryan Callahan added two assists each, and Richards also had with a two-point night as New York quickly erased the memory of a lackluster loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday that temporarily halted their surge toward the postseason.
The Rangers (22-17-4) will play at Buffalo on Friday and face desperate New Jersey at home Sunday. All of New York's final five games are against teams below the playoff cutoff in the East.
"It's a huge game," Nash said. "We've got to get a win (Friday) night. We'll enjoy this for a couple of hours, then go back to work tomorrow morning."
Brassard and Nash both scored power-play goals, with help from Callahan in the first, and Zuccarello found the net for the second straight game to give the Rangers their sixth win in nine games (6-2-1).
Zuccarello scored in the second period and then added his second of the night with 4:49 left when he tipped the puck in after Richards raced it up ice. Brassard made it 5-1 just 1:24 later with his second of the game, with an assist from Nash, and Richards pushed the lead to five goals with 1:24 remaining.
The loss on Tuesday enabled Winnipeg to get even in points with the Rangers. Winnipeg kept pace Thursday with an overtime win over Carolina.
"It's important. We don't need help," Rangers coach John Tortorella said of the standings. "I think it's an opportunity for some guys to step up. You shouldn't feel the pressure and shy away from it.
"That's the way you need to take it as an individual and as a group."
Henrik Lundqvist made 34 saves for his 20th win. Even in this lockout-shortened, 48-game season, Lundqvist reached 20 for the eighth straight time.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored in the second period for Florida (13-24-6), which has an NHL-low 32 points. Scott Clemmensen stopped 24 shots, but the Panthers lost their fourth in a row and for the fifth time in six games despite holding a 35-30 edge in shots.
"You lose by five goals, it's pretty hard to put anything (positive) to it," disappointed Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "It's a results business. Tonight is another example that we have to be a lot better."
The Rangers found their offense by taking advantage of the NHL's worst penalty-killing unit in the first period. New York had been 0-for-14 with the advantage in its previous four games, but connected on its first two tries to grab a 2-0 lead.
Islanders 5, Maple Leafs 3
John Tavares had two goals and an assist as New York rallied past Toronto to move within two points of the Maple Leafs for fifth place in the East.
The Islanders overcame an early 2-0 deficit to win the first of five straight road games they will play to end the regular season. New York improved to 13-5-2 away from home, earning its fifth win in six games while seeking a playoff berth for the first time since 2007.
Brad Boyes, with a goal and two assists, Matt Moulson and Frans Nielsen also scored for New York.
Cody Franson, Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf scored for the Leafs, who were solidly outshot 38-21. Phil Kessel, appearing in his 500th career NHL game, added three assists.
Devils 3, Flyers 0
Martin Brodeur stopped 23 shots for his 121st career shutout, helping to keep New Jersey's slim playoff hopes alive with a win over Philadelphia.
Ryan Carter, Matt D'Agostini and Adam Henrique scored to help the Devils snap a 10-game winless streak (0-6-4). New Jersey came in eight points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East and has five games left, leaving the Devils in need of serious help to make the postseason.
Brodeur wasn't seriously tested all game but did enough to earn his second shutout of the season.
It was also the NHL's all-time wins leader's 11th career shutout against the Flyers, who fell one point back of New Jersey in the standings.
Senators 3, Capitals 1
Kyle Turris scored twice and Ottawa ended Washington's winning streak at eight games.
Cory Conacher also scored and Craig Anderson made 18 saves to help the Senators win their fourth straight game and move within a point of Toronto (53) for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Mike Ribeiro scored and Braden Holtby stopped 35 shots for the Southeast Division-leading Capitals, who hadn't lost since a 5-4 setback in overtime at Philadelphia on March 31.
While Anderson was rarely tested, he did make some timely saves to bail out his team in the third. With the Senators holding a 2-1 lead midway through the final period, Anderson made a huge save on Eric Fehr when he skated in on net all alone.
Turris scored an empty-net goal with 1:27 remaining to seal it.
Stars 5, Canucks 1
Cody Eakin, Jamie Benn and Ray Whitney scored goals early in the third period to break open a tie game before Dallas cruised to a victory over Vancouver.
Vernon Fiddler and Erik Cole also found the back of the net, and Kari Lehtonen stopped 37 shots for the Stars, who are 6-1-0 in their last seven games.
Dallas moved into a tie with Detroit for ninth in the West, two points behind Columbus for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference. The Stars have five games remaining, including one against the Blue Jackets in Dallas on April 25 and the finale against Detroit at home on April 27.
Derek Roy, who Dallas traded at the April 2 deadline, scored for Vancouver.
Canadiens 3, Lightning 2
Brian Gionta scored his second goal of the game with 47 seconds left in regulation and Montreal snapped a three-game skid with a victory over Tampa Bay.
Gionta was at the left post and sent a rebound off the end boards into the net for the winner.
Alex Galchenyuk also scored for the Canadiens, who had been outscored 18-8 in their three previous outings. Montreal swept its three-game season series with the Lightning.
Richard Panik and Vincent Lecavalier scored for Tampa Bay, which is winless in its last five games and has only one victory in its last eight. The Lightning ended a four-game road trip.
It was Montreal's first win since clinching a playoff spot last week.
Blues 2, Coyotes 1 (SO)
Brian Elliott stopped all three chances in a shootout for the second straight game, bouncing back after a late goal denied him a fourth shutout this month, and St. Louis beat Phoenix to move a step closer to a playoff berth.
Radim Vrbata's power-play goal tied it with 1:07 to go for the Coyotes, who were blanked 4-0 on Monday by San Jose. Vrbata capitalized on a boarding penalty against Blues captain David Backes.
Andy McDonald was the first to go in the shootout and got the only goal, beating Chad Johnson.
David Perron scored in regulation for the Blues, who have scored two or fewer goals in 12 of their last 16 games. They've won 10 of those games thanks to tight defense and strong play in goal.
Jets 4, Hurricanes 3 (OT)
Dustin Byfuglien scored 1:23 into overtime and Winnipeg beat Carolina to continued its hunt for a playoff berth with a season-high fifth straight win.
Byfuglien beat Justin Peters off a rebound from a shot by Andrew Ladd, who finished with three assists. Blake Wheeler had a goal and two assists, and Zach Bogosian and Paul Postma also scored for the Jets, who moved within two points of first-place Washington in the Southeast Division.
Washington, which lost 3-1 to Ottawa, has 50 points. The Jets and eight-place Rangers are tied with 48, but New York has played one fewer game. New York beat Florida 6-1 on Thursday night.
Tuomo Ruutu scored twice and Alexander Semin added a goal for Carolina.
Kings 2, Blue Jackets 1
Kyle Clifford scored the tiebreaking goal, Jonathan Quick made 20 saves and Los Angeles beat Columbus to slow the Blue Jackets’ late-season surge.
Drew Doughty scored an early power-play goal for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who kept pace with San Jose for fourth place in the West by snapping Columbus’ five-game winning streak.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 21 shots and Dalton Prout scored his first NHL goal for the eighth-place Blue Jackets, who lost for the first time in four stops on their six-game trip.
Columbus, which was last in the NHL on Feb. 25 but is 16-5-5 since, leads Detroit and Dallas by two points in the race for the final playoff spot in the conference.
Sharks 6, Wild 1
Marty Havlat scored twice against his former team and San Jose closed in on a ninth straight playoff berth with a win Minnesota — its most lopsided victory of the season.
Logan Couture added two goals and two assists, and Raffi Torres and Joe Pavelski also scored for the Sharks, who have won three straight to remain tied for fourth place with Los Angeles in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the West playoffs.
Antti Niemi made 26 saves in his 22nd straight start.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored the lone goal for the Wild, who dropped behind St. Louis into seventh place in the conference. Minnesota has a four-point lead over ninth-place Dallas and Detroit.
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