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Rangers 4, Hurricanes 3
With time slipping away, New York appeared destined for a long night by the television, hoping some other team would put them into the postseason.
Then came one timely bounce off the boards, and another off a post. Just like that, the Rangers pushed themselves back into the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Captain Ryan Callahan scored 2:55 into overtime, and New York rallied to clinch a third straight playoff berth by beating Carolina on Thursday night.
Brad Richards tied it for the Rangers with 2:57 left in regulation after New York blew an early 2-0 lead and fell behind already-eliminated Carolina.
"We just kept on playing, scored an ugly one, and couldn't be more fitting than the guy who scored the winner," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "Funny how the hockey gods work in these type of situations."
Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard staked the Rangers to the lead in the first period, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 18 shots for New York, the second New York team this week to clinch a playoff spot on Carolina's ice.
The Rangers jumped over the rival Islanders — who did it Tuesday night — and moved into seventh place in the East with one game left.
Jiri Tlusty had two goals, and Tuomo Ruutu also scored for Carolina, which played without injured forward Alexander Semin. He sat out after sustaining a concussion that will also sideline him for the season finale at Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Dan Ellis finished with 34 saves for Carolina.
The Rangers pushed this one into overtime with a bizarre goal. Richards uncorked a shot from the blue line that bounced hard off the end boards and clicked off Ellis' right skate and into his own net.
"There's times that we haven't worked for our bounces," Ellis said. "Tonight I think we did work for our bounces and we just got one against us."
All of a sudden, the Rangers had hope.
"We know that we're right there to get that next point and advance in the playoffs," Callahan said.
He took care of that himself, ending it by scooping up the puck by the boards, skating in on Ellis and snapping it toward the far side. The puck glanced off the post on its way in and sent the Rangers spilling onto the ice in celebration.
"That was just a sick play from start to finish," Lundqvist said, "and it's a good thing to see your captain put it home and put us in the playoffs."
It capped a remarkable reversal after the Hurricanes led for most of the third period.
Tlusty's second goal was scored 49 seconds into the third period and put the Hurricanes up 3-2.
It was Carolina's only shot of the first 18½ minutes of the period, and it came after the Hurricanes — who have piled up huge shot totals all season — managed just four in the second period yet scored on two.
Tlusty pulled Carolina within 2-1 when he scored on the power play 4:51 into the second. Ruutu tied it 3 minutes later with a wrist shot from the circle.
That put all the pressure on the Rangers, who were trying to avoid their second straight loss to a non-playoff team from the Southeast Division with a postseason spot on the line for them.
New York was in danger of dropping below the postseason cutoff if it lost to Carolina.
Bruins 2, Lightning 0
Boston admitted it — it's looking ahead to the playoffs.
And with the way goalie Tuukka Rask has played lately, the Bruins want to start the postseason as soon as possible.
Rask stopped 30 shots for Boston in a win over Tampa Bay, shutting down the NHL's top two scorers and keeping Boston in control of the tight race for the Northeast Division title.
It was the second shutout in as many starts for Rask, who seems comfortable and confident just when Boston needs it most.
"At the end of the day, a goaltender plays a big role in your success. In a game like tonight, if we don't have good goaltending and we get a breakdown the puck will be in the back of your net," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "You need a guy to stand tall and be good, and you need a guy that goes into the playoffs with confidence and hopefully that's what Tuukka's creating here."
It hasn't even been a week since Julien was openly critical of Rask after the Bruins 3-2' loss to the Penguins in Boston on Saturday. The Penguins scored a pair of power-play goals over four minutes in the third period to break open what had been a 1-1 tie.
Rask was just as critical, saying he had cost the Bruins the game. He was back in the net Sunday and made 28 saves in a 3-0 win over Florida, although few of the Panthers' shots appeared to be much of a challenge.
The Lightning were a much greater threat as Martin St. Louis entered the game leading the NHL with 58 points and teammate Steven Stamkos in a tie for second with 56.
Both had great scoring chances that Rask grabbed out of the air with his glove.
"You just kind of throw yourself out there," Rask said. "For me, I get a better feeling when I'm just square and the puck hits me and I don't give up rebounds. It's pretty easy to get carried away when you make highlight saves, so you just try to stay calm after you make a save like that."
Rask remained calm throughout and was the main reason Boston won the game despite being outshot by the Lightning 30-24.
"You think he doesn't have it and his glove's right there," said Daniel Paille, whose goal late in the second period gave Boston a 2-0 lead that held through the third. "He read a lot of plays tonight and he talked all night. That was good to see."
The Bruins and Canadiens are tied with 61 points, but Boston has two games remaining while Montreal has only one. The Canadiens finish their season at Toronto on Saturday. Boston plays at Washington on Saturday and finishes at home against Ottawa in the regular-season finale on Sunday.
Dennis Seidenberg also scored for the Bruins, breaking a scoreless tie early in the second period for his third goal of the season. Paille added a goal toward the end of the period and that was more than enough for Rask.
Anders Lindback had 22 saves for the Lightning.
Flyers 2, Islanders 1
Oliver Lauridsen and Danny Briere scored goals to lead Philadelphia to win over New York.
Lauridsen scored his second career NHL goal on a slap shot high above the circle late in the third period to lift the Flyers to a win in their home finale. They missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
John Tavares scored for the playoff-bound Islanders. The Islanders are headed to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons and failed to earn a point for the first time in 12 games.
Devils 3, Penguins 2
lya Kovalchuk scored his first goal since sustaining a shoulder injury last month, giving New Jersey a victory over Pittsburgh.
Kovalchuk's goal with 6:10 remaining helped New Jersey overcome a 2-0 deficit and win its home finale.
Travis Zajac and David Clarkson also scored for the Devils, who have already been eliminated from playoff contention. Johan Hedberg made 15 saves in his first start since March 19 and earned his sixth win of the season.
Matt Cooke scored in the first period, and Jussi Jokinen added a second-period goal for the Penguins. Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves.
Penguins star Sidney Crosby missed his 10th straight game because of a broken jaw, but he was cleared by medical personnel to return to hockey-related activity.
Senators 2, Capitals 1 (OT)
Sergei Gonchar scored 47 seconds into overtime, Erik Karlsson set up Ottawa's first goal in his sooner-than-anticipated return from a torn Achilles tendon, and the Senators clinched a playoff berth by beating Washington.
Craig Anderson made 19 saves. The only shot that got past him was Alex Ovechkin's NHL-leading 32nd goal, which tied the game 8½ minutes into the third period.
But ex-Capitals defenseman Gonchar put the winner past Michal Neuvirth, who made 39 saves.
Jakob Silfverberg deflected in Karlsson's shot 12:35 into the second period against the Southeast Division champion Capitals, who had nothing at stake.
The overtime wins by the Senators and New York Rangers eliminated the Winnipeg Jets from the playoff chase.
The Senators, who have two games remaining, moved up to sixth in the East. If they remain there, Ottawa would face the Capitals, who have won 10 of 12 overall — with the only losses against the Senators.
Canadiens 4, Jets 2
Winnipeg saw its playoff hopes end on the scoreboard before they were beaten by Montreal.
The Jets were ahead 2-1 as they started the third but already knew whatever they did wouldn't be enough.
David Desharnais, Rene Bourque, Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty scored as the Canadiens broke out of a slump in which they had lost five of six.
James Wright and Blake Wheeler scored for the Jets, who finished the season 24-21-3.
Red Wings 5, Predators 2
Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and two assists, and Detroit moved a step closer to its 22nd straight playoff appearance by beating Nashville.
The Red Wings, who moved into seventh place in the Western Conference, need one more point to secure their spot in the postseason. They own the longest current playoff streak in North American professional sports.
Detroit has one regular-season game remaining.
Johan Franzen had a goal and an assist, and Valtteri Filppula, Patrick Eaves and Justin Abdelkader also scored for Detroit. Jimmy Howard stopped 20 shots.
Mike Fisher and Craig Smith each had a goal and an assist for Nashville, which got 33 saves from Chris Mason.
The Red Wings scored three times in the second period to take a 4-2 lead.
Blue Jackets 3, Stars 1
Cam Atkinson scored two goals and Sergei Bobrovsky made 31 saves and Columbus stayed alive in the Western Conference playoff race with a victory over Dallas.
Mark Letestu snapped a 1-1 tie in the third period for the game-winner.
Before the game ended, the Stars were eliminated from playoff contention when Detroit defeated Nashville 5-2, moving past Minnesota into seventh in the Western Conference.
The Blue Jackets are even in points with the Wild, who hold eighth place due to the non-shootout wins tiebreaker.
Columbus needs to beat the Predators on Saturday, and have the Stars beat the Red Wings in regulation on Saturday, or have the Wild earn no more than one point in their two remaining games, for just the second postseason berth in franchise history and first since 2009.
Maple Leafs 4, Panthers 0
Phil Kessel scored two goals to lead playoff-bound Toronto over last-place Florida.
Clarke MacArthur and Leo Komarov also scored for the Maple Leafs. James Reimer stopped 34 shots for his fourth shutout of the season. Nazem Kadri had a pair of assists.
Jacob Markstrom made 13 saves for Florida, which played its final home game of the season. The Panthers clinched the worst record in the NHL for the first time in franchise history.
Toronto snapped out of a 1-3, scoring four goals on just 17 shots. The Maple Leafs can't finish lower than sixth in the Eastern Conference.
Blues 4, Flames 1
Ryan Reaves scored twice and Brian Elliott earned his NHL-leading 10th win in April in St. Louis' win over Calgary.
St. Louis, which has won five of six, moved into fourth place in the Western Conference. The Blues have 58 points, one ahead of Los Angeles and San Jose. They can clinch the No. 4 seed and home ice in the opening round of the playoffs with a victory over Chicago on Saturday.
The Blues have won a season-high five straight home games.
Calgary will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
Elliott made 18 saves in improving to 10-2 in April. He has three shutouts in the month and has allowed only 15 goals.
Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen also had goals for St. Louis, which scored three times in the second period to take a 3-1 lead. It was the Blues' first three-goal period since the second period of a 6-3 win at Phoenix on March 7.
Chris Stewart and Adam Cracknell added two assists each for the Blues, who scored more than three goals for the first time in 11 games.
Ducks 3, Canucks 1
Brad Staubitz's second-period goal sent Anaheim over Vancouver.
Staubitz's goal on a shot from right wing at 8:21 of the second proved to be the winner as it gave the Ducks a 2-0 lead that held up after 40 minutes before a Vancouver rally fell short in the third.
The Ducks improved to 30-11-6 in their final road game of the regular season.
The loss ended Vancouver's home win streak at eight games as their record dropped to 26-14-7. The Canucks finished with a 15-6-3 home mark.
Matt Beleskey, also in the second period, and Andrew Cogliano, with a short-handed empty-netter in the final minute of the third, scored for the Ducks.
Jason Garrison scored for the Canucks during a 5-on-3 power play late in the third period.