|The Capitals regain their playoff spot with six games to go. (Getty Images)|
There's always a Winner and a Loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.
Washington Capitals: That's what you do to inferior opponents when you're desperately chasing a playoff berth.
The fans at Verizon Center were growing a bit restless early in the game but the Capitals opened it up a bit and built a 3-0 lead, just as they did on Friday against the Jets. The difference? This time the Capitals didn't give up four unanswered. In fact, they didn't give up any.
The Caps have been put into a position where they must win now to keep pace. Before they weren't really being threatened by anybody, there was no team below them you felt could overtake them. That was until the Sabres got hotter than the sun and the heat was put on the Caps. They responded well enough on Sunday. They regained their eighth spot as well as closed to just two points on the Senators for seventh.
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This all sets the table nicely for Tuesday's massive showdown in Washington between the Caps and Sabres.
[Related: Capitals 3, Wild 0]
Nashville Predators: The Predators don't appear to think the Central Division is so tough. I mean, they're running roughshod through their division foes this season.
The latest exhibit submitted as evidence was their thorough 6-1 beatdown of the Blackhawks in Chicago on Sunday. They were never threatened in the game and ran away with their 15th win against division foes this season. In total they are 15-3-3 against the Central.
The win also catapults them ahead of the Red Wings in the back-and-forth battle for home ice in what appears to be their first-round collision course.
And all is not bad for the 'Hawks either. Sure, they were pretty much embarrassed on their own ice by the Predators, but do they really want to get the four or five seed anyway? They're probably better off taking their chances with the winner of the Pacific Division instead of either Nashville or Detroit, especially Nashville. They're now 1-4 against the Preds this season.
[Related: Predators 6, Blackhawks 1]
|Those are some bright pads, Marty. (Getty Images)|
Boston Bruins: That's a nice trip to California when a little bit of heat was building on them in the playoff position race. By beating the Ducks 3-2 on Sunday night, the B's finished their visit to Cali taking five of the six points. Not too shabby.
Sunday also marked Marty Turco's first win as a member of the Bruins. Maybe it was those new pads of his. I swear, they almost burned a whole in my television.
The win coupled with Florida's shootout loss pushed the lead out to four points on the Panthers for the second seed in the East.
Columbus Blue Jackets: What's that you say? They were doubled up by the second worst team in the league, the Oilers ?
Why yes, yes they won. That's because they wrapped up the worst record in the NHL this season, guaranteeing that their draft pick will be no worse than No. 2, likely No. 1 overall. With it not appearing to be a very deep draft, that's some good news in an otherwise miserable season.
Now we'll wait to see if the Blue Jackets actually keep that draft pick. There has been plenty of chatter about them possibly dealing it, but naturally it would require a big return package.
Phoenix Coyotes: Already in a position where they have played more games than their opponents, the Coyotes added another to their resume. Unfortunately, it was an empty showing.
They befell the same fate that has befallen teams in 13 other games this season, they were shut out by the St. Louis Blues . Certainly no shame in that. For Brian Elliott it was just his second in a row and eighth of the season. Just another day at the office.
But for the Coyotes it hurts their playoff chances a lot. Now they will take the next three days off watching the teams behind them make up those games in hand. That will likely also coincide with them losing their spot as the seventh seed in the West right now.
With news of Quebec City breaking ground on a new arena this September, it was an all-around bad day for hockey in the desert.
Florida Panthers: They came home with a golden chance to at least keep their cushion at at least four points in the Southeast, likely more. Instead they lost to both the Oilers and Islanders in shootouts, their ninth and 10th such losses this season. Those are bad points to leave on the table.
The most recent one was Sunday's loss to the Islanders, a game in which the Panthers had the lead on two occasions and couldn't hold on. You just get the feeling when Florida reaches a shootout, it's not going to end well for them, no matter who they play. They are the worst franchise in the history of the shootout and aren't much better this season at all.
It's natural to wonder if they aren't going to rue all the missed points at the end of the season. Their division lead was trimmed down to three points with two things to consider. First of all, the Panthers do have a game in hand on the Capitals. But secondly, they have one more head-to-head battle in the second-to-last game of the season and so far the Panthers have been defeated 7-0 in the two games in D.C. already this season.
[Related: Islanders 3, Panthers 2 (SO)]
Goal of the night
Sidney Crosby is starting to score again now. Pretty easy to see why after he abused Marek Zidlicky not once but twice with the same move, leading to breakaways. The second he converted in the Penguins' 5-2 win over the Devils .
This is pretty dirty.