Kyle Connor, Bruins, Jets Clinch Playoff Spots, Top Highlights from Mar. 23

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 24, 2019

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 24:  Patrik Laine #29 of the Winnipeg Jets celebrates with Kyle Connor #81, Mark Scheifele #55 and Blake Wheeler #26 after scoring a goal against goaltender Darcy Kuemper #35 of the Arizona Coyotes during the first period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on February 24, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The 2019 NHL playoff field grew to five teams on Saturday night. 

The Boston Bruins and Winnipeg Jets became the latest franchises to clinch postseason spots with victories over the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators, respectively.

Although Boston put up seven goals, Winnipeg had arguably the better playoff-clinching performance, as Kyle Connor netted a hat trick and Connor Hellebuyck recorded a shutout against its biggest Central Division rival. 

Going into Sunday, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston are locked into the Eastern Conference playoff field, while Winnipeg, the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks are set for the Western Conference playoffs. 

                          

Saturday's NHL Scores

New Jersey 2, Arizona 1 (Final/Shootout) 

New York Islanders 4, Philadelphia 2

Colorado 4, Chicago 2

Ottawa 4, Edmonton 3 (Final/OT)

Winnipeg 5, Nashville 0

New York Rangers 2, Toronto 1 (Final/OT) 

Montreal 7, Buffalo 4

Boston 7, Florida 3

Carolina 5, Minnesota 1

St. Louis 4. Tampa Bay 3

Pittsburgh 3, Dallas 2

Calgary 3, Vancouver 1

Detroit 3, Vegas 2 (Final/OT) 

Los Angeles 4, Anaheim 3 (Final/Shootout) 

                            

Connor's Hat Trick Powers Jets

 

                      

Rangers Knock Off Leafs in OT

                   

Kopitar's Ridiculous Shootout Move

                   

Zacha Wins Shootout for Devils

                        

Red Wings Steal OT Win in Vegas

                 

McDavid Ties Career High in Points

                       

Tkachuk's OT Winner for Ottawa

 

                     

McCann Spins and Scores

                  

Lehkonen Finishes Off Montreal's Slick Passing Move

                    

Bailey Scores a Pair for Isles

                  

Gostisbehere's Rocket from the Point 

                          

Jets Clinch Playoff Berth by Beating Division Rival

Winnipeg played with a higher level of intensity Saturday, as it stormed past Nashville to secure its place in the postseason. 

Jets forward Blake Wheeler went as far to say the 5-0 thumping of the Predators was the team's best game of the season, per the team's official Twitter account

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: Blake Wheeler #26 of the Winnipeg Jets in action against the Washington Capitals during the first period at Capital One Arena on March 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

"Everyone was fired up for this one, we fed off that," Wheeler said. "I thought it was our best game of the year. We had four lines and six defensemen all over them all night. That's a real weapon for us." 

Connor was the star of Saturday's game, as he netted three goals—two of which came in third period. 

With their playoff berth secured, Connor and his teammates are focused on rounding into form and putting in more performances like the one they produced against Nashville, per the team's official Twitter account

"We want to get in that form, and it's starting to shake out and see who we're going to play so we can structure our game and get ready for the push," Connor said.

Since the Jets are seven points back of Calgary for the No. 1 seed in the West, they are likely going to face the top wild-card team in the first round of the playoffs. 

The Dallas Stars hold that spot, but they are only two points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche, which means Winnipeg's first-round playoff opponent is far from determined. 

                         

Bruins Become 2nd Atlantic Division Team to Qualify for Postseason

The second-best team in the East for most of the season became the second franchise in the conference to lock up a playoff berth by way of a 7-3 win over Florida.

Seven players scored in the victory for the Bruins, who were one of two teams to reach the 100-point mark Saturday.

SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 23: Teammates congratulate Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins after he scored a second period goal against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on March 23, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was impressed with the all-around scoring effort, which is key for the squad going into the playoffs, per Matt Porter of the Boston Globe.

"We seem to have hit it here the last month," Cassidy said of the secondary scoring his team has received. "So that's good. I think every team would tell you they don't want to rely on three or four players to score."

By playing so well for an extended period of time, the Bruins avoided the chaotic push for playoff spots at the end of the regular season and can focus on preparing for the postseason, as Zdeno Chara noted to Eric Russo of the team's official website:

"You can see that every year teams are really battling for every point to get into the playoffs. It's a grind, so if you don't play consistently well and strong throughout the whole year, it's gonna catch up and then you have to gain some ground.

"It's nice to be in a position where we have that spot. But at the same time, we want to continue to play well and play hard."

Since Tampa Bay is already locked into the top spot in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins will likely face the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first-round matchup of Atlantic Division squads.

                             

Sunday's NHL Schedule

Philadelphia at Washington (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) 

Arizona at New York Islanders (3 p.m. ET) 

Montreal at Carolina (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Colorado at Chicago (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) 

Columbus at Vancouver (10 p.m. ET) 

                 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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