NHL Playoff Races: Live Updates Throughout Saturday on Playoff Implicating Games
The eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference hangs in the balance Saturday, as the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers—who are currently tied with 91 points but with the tiebreaker belonging to the 'Canes—finish out their season.
The Blueshirts battle the New Jersey Devils at 12:30, needing at least a point to keep their postseason hopes alive, while the Hurricanes face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:00, understanding what's necessary to fulfill their dreams.
For more on this last-minute battle, read a more in-depth preview here.
The NHL also has nine other important—but less-playoff implicating—games on the slate for this Saturday.
The Senators host the Bruins at 1:00. With a win in this one and another victory tomorrow, Boston may be able to squeak into the second seed; a Senators loss and an Isles win gives Ottawa, most likely, the fourth overall pick in the upcoming draft.
Rivals Montreal and Toronto play at 7:00. The Canadiens are tied with Boston for sixth in the East; Toronto is merely playing for bragging rights.
The Islanders visit Wachovia Center and the Flyers, also at 7:00. Philadelphia is all square with rival Pittsburgh for the Atlantic Division lead; with a loss, the Isles get the fourth overall pick in the draft.
Washington heads to Florida at 7:00. The Capitals have secured the Eastern Conference regular season title yet again and will likely rest many of their stars; the Panthers have lost 10 in a row and are guaranteed the third draft pick entering the lottery.
The now-clinched Sabres visit the disheartened Blue Jackets at 7:00. The Sabres need a win and Toronto victory over the Habs to earn the sixth seed, and Columbus is locked in at 13th in the West.
At 8:00 ET, the Predators hope to prepare for the playoffs with a win in St. Louis. If they pull it off, they will have home-ice advantage for the first round; if not, they could finish as low as eighth. The Blues need to lose—and have Toronto and Minnesota win—to get the ninth draft pick.
Two hours later, Calgary and Vancouver meet for the final time this season. The Canucks have long since secured the Presidents Trophy; the Flames, despite winning three in a row, were eliminated from playoff competition yesterday.
Now-clinched Anaheim visits Los Angeles at 10:30 ET; the Ducks and Kings sit one point apart and are both in the massive logjam that could finish anywhere from fourth to eighth.
Finally, the day wraps up with a Pacific Division battle as Phoenix visits the Shark Tank. The Coyotes are also part of the aforementioned clog-up in the Western Conference standings; San Jose leads Detroit by one point for the second seed with one game remaining for both sides.
Stay tuned here for a plethora of live game updates, playoff race tidbits, and additional analysis on a variety of happenings around the NHL. With the first game starting just a half past noon, be ready for a full day of massively important hockey.
The Lightning get two empty-netters and roll out with a 6-2 win, sending the New York Rangers to the postseason to face the Washington Capitals in the first round. Buffalo defeated Columbus 5-4, Florida overcame Washington 1-0, Philadelphia is on top of the Islanders 6-4 with eight minutes remaining, and Montreal leads Toronto 4-1 late.
LaRose scored a couple minutes ago to make it 4-2, it's somewhat within reach for Carolina. A lot of spirit shown by the crowd keeping the team going. Jamie McBain becoming a concern for the 'Canes, as he's really struggled so far.
Sorry for the lack of updates; it's 4-1 at the 1st intermission. Clark made it 4-0 for the Lightning before Stillman bounced one off of Brewer's skate on a 5-on-3 to get the Hurricanes on the board. This would certainly be a historic comeback if they could pull it off and squeak into the postseason.
It's still 3-0 at the first intermission, one that Carolina desperately needs. Around the NHL, the Isles and Flyers are lighting it up already, tied 3-3 with still 6:25 left in the first period. Montreal is on top of the Leafs 2-1 with a little under four minutes to play in the first period, while the Washington-Florida and Buffalo-Columbus games are scoreless after 20 minutes.
A lot of hockey to be played, says Cory Stillman. They better be productive in that hockey.
Lecavalier, Stamkos also score for the Lightning, who are thrilling the Rangers right now. A big penalty kill by the Bolts after a timeout from Carolina's bench also helps.
It's still not over, as this 'Canes team has showed a lot of spirit in other situations like this previously, but it's looking bleak in Carolina.
Goal by Dominic Moore for the Bolts gives them a 1-0 lead, ruining the momentum from a big kill by Carolina. After the commercial break, a powerplay coming for the 'Canes. A lot of energy from Cam Ward and the crowd, but I'm just not seeing any additional boost from most of the lineup so far.
Extremely tense game right now, for a lot of Caniacs, including myself. Nearly shaking right now, and we're only six minutes in.
Mike Smith in goal for Tampa Bay, he's just 1-6-3 all-time versus Carolina but won his last start, 4-2 in late March.
We're just about a dozen minutes from puck drop at the RBC Center, where the Hurricanes will host the Lightning in a battle for the playoff lives.
Boston defeated Ottawa 3-1 earlier.
5-2 was the final. Carolina must win against the Tampa Bay Lightning to make the playoffs. Bruins still holding on to a 2-1 lead against the Senators with 11:50 to play.
With well under six minutes to play, we're going to call this a game. Updates will start occuring a little more sparsely from now until around 7 PM ET, when a slew of games including the Canes-Bolts one that we're all looking forward to gets underway.
2-on-1 finished off by Vinny Prospal on the feed by Anisimov! It's pretty much over now with under nine minutes to play and a 5-2 lead for New York, who has scored four unanswered. Prospal has two points now and has played very well.
Nice pressure by NJD over the past couple minutes but the Rangers doing a good job not allowing shots to be taken. 12 and a half minutes remaining in the contest.
Five minutes into the third period, lead still holding at 4-2. Boston leads Ottawa 2-1 past the halfway point there.
The Blueshirts go into the second break with a two goal lead, and so far, they look to be a team that will be in control of this advantage throughout the rest of the game.
However, with three goals scored in both of the first two periods, it's possible the Devils could get right back into this if the pace keeps up. Brodeur needs to be a lot sharper, though.
Juicy rebound from a bewildered Brodeur lets Brandon Prust make it 4-2! Dubinsky circled up, away from Kovy, and throws it on goal. Brodeur can't find it and it sits right on top of the crease for the taking.
With a 4-2 lead, the Rangers have a massive edge but they can't start looking to far ahead - as in, to watching the 'Canes play for the lives.
Shots on goal are 15-15 with just a few seconds over five minutes left in the middle period. The ice is opening up now, chances starting to alternate quickly at each end. This is probably advantage to the Devils, who have shown the ability to strike quickly and weren't holding up to well during the earlier part of the period, which had longer possessions rather than a lot of transition opportunities.
Ottawa's Bobby Butler has tied it in Boston now, they're even at one apiece at the first intermission.
Mispelling: It's Ryan McDonagh. Prospal and Gaborik get the assists; that's a nice point to end a very productive shift for Prospal.
McDonough scores for the Rangers! His first goal ever gives New York a much needed 3-2 lead with over 12 minutes played in the second period! Beautiful passing sets up the snipe.
Some good pressure there by the Devils, helping ease some subtle NYR momentum this period. Just over 10 minutes remaining in the period.
Daniel Paille has scored for Boston, they lead Ottawa late in the 1st.
Rangers goal by Wojtek Wolski! Tied 2-2, this is some furious scoring now. That's Wolski's first since Feb. 22, as they just said on the broadcast. Fedotenko and Sauer get the assists.
My opinion: a poor play by Brodeur. A relatively slow shot beat him five-hole, and Wolski had held the puck for a while, too.
Scoring correction: Palmieri ended up getting credit for Kovy's first goal, Kovalchuk replaces Tallinder on the assists list. He still has two points, now just one goal and one assist
The shots on goal are all square at seven apiece at the break. That's three goals on 14 total shots; a 78.5 save percentage together for the two goalies - who happen to also be among the best in the business (Brodeur and Lundqvist).
Another quick note: Senators and Bruins are scoreless six minutes into the game.
Technical difficulties have been solved, although I apologize for not covering the first period. It's 2-1 Devils after 20 minutes of play.
Kovalchuk struck first for the Devils just 2:03 in, which was quickly tied up just over a minute later by the Ranger's Chris Drury. As we mentioned in the opening, Drury was returning from over two months missed from injury and had not yet scored this season - until now, in Game 82. Zuccarello, the other player newly added to the lineup, had an assist.
After a long scoreless drought, Kovy scored yet again for the Devils with 42 seconds remaining, giving New Jersey back the lead. Zajac, Tallinder, Greene, and Salmela have the assists on the two Kovalchuk tallies, Christensen and the aforementioned Zuccarello have the helpers on the Rangers side.
Just a little pregame analysis here:
The Devils don't have a lot to play for today (although, neither do the Lightning, who meet the 'Canes later). This is the first game of a back-to-back which will see them hosting Boston tomorrow for New Jersey. They trail Atlanta by one point, who hosts Pittsburgh tomorrow to close their season, and Columbus by two points, who matches up against Buffalo today. Whoever loses the race between the three of them will get the sixth pick entering the draft lottery.
After their insane 17-1-2 run earlier this spring, New Jersey cost themselves a playoff spot by cooling off about three weeks too soon. They are now only 4-5-1 in their last ten games. They did beat the Leafs on Wednesday to ruin Toronto's last remaining playoff hopes.
However, one thing that may drive them on is the rivalry between the two sides, and, being left out of the playoffs themselves, the Devils would love to be the one who really finishes off the Rangers, who have been in the top eight for almost all of the season, until now.
NHL.com is reporting that Chris Drury and Mats Zuccarello will both play this afternoon for the Rangers, for whom puck drop is now less than 45 minutes away.
Drury, who has been out since February 5th, is back in the lineup. He has just four assists and not a single goal in only 24 appearances in this extremely disappointing season for the former star.
Zuccarello, on the other hand, has been recalled from the Connecticut Whale after he was sent there on the first of April. The 23-year-old Norwegian has been dynamite in shootouts (he's five-for-nine) and has six goals, 16 assists, and plus-two rating during normal situations in 41 games played, although he was a minus-three in his last NHL game.
Keep an eye on both players today, although for different reasons.
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