How we got here: Playoff implications on a busy final day of the NHL season
It's the final day of the NHL's regular season and with all 30 teams in action there were still two playoff berths up for grabs and multiple seeds ready to be claimed. Follow along as we untangle the complicated web en route to the playoff picture.
Ducks 2, Coyotes 1
The Anaheim Ducks wrapped up the Western Conference by clenching the top seed with 109 points after their 2-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes.
The Ducks will continuing into the postseason against the Winnipeg Jets, who landed in the second wild card spot in the West. Even before the final regular season game between the Oilers and the Canucks could end, it was already decided that Vancouver will take the second seed in the Pacific division and have home ice advantage against the Flames in the playoffs.
Rounding out the conference, the Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks remained in the second and third positions in the Central division despite both of their last game losses.
Stars 4, Predators 1
The Stars came into the day with only pride to play for and one of their own will be taking home some hardware in the form of the Art Ross Trophy. Dallas captain Jamie Benn is now the first player in the franchise’s history to ever win the league's scoring title, though he did it with the lowest points total in a non-lockout season since Chicago's Stan Mikita in 1967-68. (So much for the NHL's efforts to boost point production.) Benn nabbed the title with an assist with only eight seconds left in the Stars’ 4–1 win over the Predators. The helper gave him 87 points (the same as Mikita's total), capping a ridiculous late run that edged John Tavares (86). Benn overtook the Islanders star with a hat trick plus that last second second assist. Meanwhile, the loss didn't cost the Predators anything. They finished second in the Central Division with 104 points and will enjoy home ice advantage in their first round series against the Blackhawks.
Lightning 3, Bruins 2 (SO)
One point from a shootout loss against the Lightning was not enough to save the Bruins from an early summer.
Boston was left to ponder a disappointing season once the Penguins’ win over the Sabres cleaned up the mess surrounding the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Defenseman Victor Hedman’s game-winning goal in the skills competition gave the Lightning a franchise single season record of 50 wins. As the second seed in the Atlantic Division, they will host the Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. Detroit’s 2–0 regulation time victory over the Hurricanes pushed the Wings up from the first wild card spot in the East into third in the division.
Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3 (SO)
The Montreal Canadiens clinched the title of the Atlantic Division champions and will face the Ottawa Senators in the playoffs.
After their 4-3 shootout win against Toronto, the Canadiens end the regular season with 110 points. This has been one of the worse seasons in decades for the Leafs, but they still managed to push the game into a shootout despite being outshot 33-22 by the Canadiens. Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnias scored the game-winning shootout goals.
Blue Jackets 5, Islanders 4 (SO)
The New York Islanders could not hold on to home ice and one last regular season win in the Nassau Coliseum thanks to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Despite not being playoff bound, the Blue Jackets won their third game in a row 5-4 in a shootout. For the Islanders this means that they remain third in the Metropolitan division and will open the playoffs in Washington against the Capitals.
Islanders captain John Tavares also moved closer to the Art Ross trophy by picking up two points in a regulation goal and assist. He leads the league for scoring points at 86 points. The only threat to Tavares’ lead is the Dallas Stars’ Jamie Benn, who trails him with 85 points and is currently playing the Nashville Predators.
Penguins 2, Sabres 0
Marc-Andre Fleury shutout the Buffalo Sabres on their ice and the Boston Bruins from the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Penguins center Brandon Sutter scored two goals against the Sabres that helped clinch the final playoff berth in the East. With the 98 points and in the second wild card spot, the Penguins will face the New York Rangers.
It’s not all bad news for the Sabres. They did clinch the last place in the league and now have the best odds at in top draft pick in the lottery.
Blues 4, Wild 2
St. Louis’ chances at the Western Conference regular season crown are still alive thanks to a win over the Wild on Saturday afternoon.
The Blues entered Saturday with a chance to gain the top spot if they won, took care of their half with a 4-2 win. Both teams will be keeping an eye on the Ducks-Coyotes game: if Anaheim wins via shootout or loses to Phoenix, the Blues claim the West crown. Minnesota's loss means Chicago will finish in the third in the Central and will play the lower seed between the Ducks and Blues.
Jets 5, Flames 1
With both teams already having clinched playoff berths, both sides rested several key players. The Jets, locked into the second wild card slot in the West, await the final of the Ducks' tilt in Arizona to see if they'll head to Anaheim or St. Louis to face the conference's top seed. The Flames' loss assures a third place finish in the Pacific Division, giving the Canucks home-ice advantage in their first-round matchup.
Mark Stone's success down the stretch has been key for the Senators and now it's paid off.
Ottawa clinched a playoff berth with the win in Philadelphia. The Senators needed just one point entering the day to make it to the playoff round, and Stone was key in making it happen. He got Ottawa on the board in the first and then fired an insurance goal in the third period to tie him with Johnny Gaudreau atop the lead for points among rookies.
With the Sens snagging a wild card berth, the Bruins and Penguins are left to duke it out for the final spot and to determine seeding. Boston needs a win in regulation or overtime coupled with a Penguins loss while Pittsburgh gets in with a victory over the Sabres, a Bruins loss or a point against Buffalo and the Bruins loss in regulation/OT.
The Rangers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, and the Capitals never dug their way out of the hole. The win does little for New York, as they had already sewn up the Presidents' Trophy, though the Washington loss leaves the rest of Metropolitan division in flux.
The Capitals sit a 101 points, while the Islanders, who take on Columbus at 7 p.m. ET, sit with 100. A win in any fashion (regulation, overtime or shootout) over the Blue Jackets would give the Isles the Metro's No. 2 seed and home ice in the first round.