So Cam Ward is human after all.
A lot of folks were starting to wonder because the Hurricanes goalie has made like Superman for the last two months and turned Carolina into one of the league's best teams. But in his 28th consecutive start tonight (his line coming in was 19-6-2, 2.99 GAA, .926 save percentage and three shutouts), Ward looking very ordinary, getting lit up by the Buffalo Sabres and pulled midway through the second period.
Not a big deal you say? Probably not because everyone is entitled to a bad night, although this one will give ammo to those who think Ward needs some rest before the playoffs. But the Hurricanes were riding an 11 game winning streak at home, and they had a chance to take over the fourth seed in the East from Philadelphia. In other words, they had something to play for. So did a lot of other teams on what was a busy and criticial night on the schedule.
The upshot: The eight Eastern Conference playoff contestants were finalized tonight, including the top three seeds. Carolina, Philadelphia and the Pittsburgh Penguins are all tied with 97 points heading into the final weekend, so they'll battle for home ice in the first round, while the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens will finish either seventh or eighth. Out West, the Predators moved into a three way tie with Anaheim and St. Louis, while the Vancouver Canucks took over the Northwest Division lead.
Best game: The Bruins beat the Canadiens 5-4 in overtime in a game that had everything including the nastiness that comes from a decades-long organizational rivalry. Montreal backed into the playoffs with the single point and showed some character coming back from a two goal deficit, but the Canadiens also blew their lead in the third period.
Biggest upset: Here's the thing -- the Detroit Red Wings are not supposed to give away games, especially late and definitely not in their own building. But that happened tonight against the Nashville Predators, who exposed some disconcerting defensive flaws in the reigning Cup champs, and ended whatever hope Detroit had of finishing first overall.
Bombs away: San Jose leads the standings and has the league's best record at home, which meant the Sharks had everything in place to clinch their first Presidents' Trophy against bottom feeding Phoenix. Seemed like a no brainer really, until the Sharks turned in a stinker and lost 4-1 to the Coyotes.
Brilliant night: Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist never gets much goal support and didn't again tonight. But he stopped 37 shots from the high powered Flyers and won the game that got New York to the playoffs.
By the numbers; The Pittsburgh Penguins should scare teams. Their win tonight raised their record to 17-3-4 since Feb. 15.