There's always a
Atlantic Division chasers: Just like that, the Atlantic is no longer out of reach for anybody.
Thanks to the Penguins handing the Rangers a 5-2 loss, the entire division (that's in the conversation, sorry Islanders) was able to gain two points on the almost season-long leaders. That's because the Flyers were able to beat the Isles 3-2 and the New Jersey Devils took two points from the Avalanche despite not scoring a single goal for the second straight game.
Now it's probably still only a two-team race with the Penguins and Rangers and New York is still in the driver's seat, but its lead is down to only four points on the Pens. The Flyers are six back and the Devils eight.
But just look at what these teams are doing, especially the two from the Keystone State. The Penguins have won 10 consecutive games and the Flyers are 8-2-0 in their last 10 while the Devils have grabbed 13 of the last 20 points up for grabs. This just in: The Atlantic Division is pretty good.
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That's the result of their 4-1 victory over those same Coyotes on Thursday night in Calgary. There's obviously no better way to make up ground in the standings than to beat the teams directly ahead of you, which is what they did.
Getting in on the scoring to start the game was Sven Baertschi , the Flames rookie who has stepped onto the scene in a big way this week. He has four games under his belt at the NHL level and three of those have seen him score a goal. Thursday's came in the opening minute and Calgary never looked back.
Oh, and Jarome Iginla scored one too. He's still pretty good.
[Related: Flames 4, Coyotes 1]
San Jose Sharks: Feeling the pressure of having to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff push, the Sharks didn't enter the third period in a very good spot, trailing to the Nashville Predators .
On the other end Antti Niemi was equally stingy as Rinne and did his part in keeping the Predators off the score sheet again before eventually getting the game to a shootout. There too Niemi was unbeatable. The result was two massive points for San Jose.
Without the third-period comeback the Sharks are sitting three points out of a playoff spot on Friday morning. Instead they are just one point back of the Avs and Coyotes, tied with Calgary. The good news for the Sharks is that they have games in hand on all of those teams.
Ward stepped up and shut out the top team in the NHL on Thursday night, blanking the Blues for the 2-0 'Canes win. It just so happened to be his 200th career win, all with Carolina of course. Not a bad accomplishment.
He had to work for it, too. The Blues fired 40 shots with no luck.
What it also did was prevent the Blues from becoming the first team to 100 points and also stopped them from being the first team to clinch a playoff spot. Now both of those are going to happen, it's just Thursday was the first chance for both but no thanks to Ward, it was pushed back for a later date.
[Related: Hurricanes 2, Blues 0]
|That. Is. Awesome. (Reddit)|
This Panthers fan: Seriously, how awesome is this Florida Panthers fan? That's some seriously awesome dedication. Not to mention some spectacular art work.
They might not have the most fans in Florida, but if there are more out there like this then they might be on to something.
By the way, is the fan behind him really excited about one of the Panthers' six goals on the night or just reveling in the awesomeness in front of him?
Boston Bruins: Most people like going to Florida. Not the Bruins , at least this time they didn't.
Boston visited the Panthers on Thursday and got thumped, 6-2. It was the latest beatdown in the Sunshine State. Two nights ago they were taken behind the woodshed by the Lightning and beaten 6-1. Yes, they were really outscored 12-3 in two games against Florida's two teams.
It is Boston's fourth straight loss. What it means is that, shockingly, the second seed going to the Northeast is no guarantee. The Panthers are just two points behind Boston in the standings with the same number of games in the books. It also keeps their division lead on the Ottawa Senators to just one point but burns one of their games in hand, which is only one.
The B's are a mess right now. They can't do much of anything right. It's not out of the question at all that Boston could be the seventh or eighth seed when the playoffs begin.
"Don't know if I've ever been part of a run like this," Tim Thomas said after the game. "We're stuck. I don't have answers"
Just digest these numbers here. Uuuuugly:
#Bruins' incredible hot stretch was 21-2-1. They're 19-25-2 in the season's other46 games. Hard to suddenly go on deep postseason run.— Mike Harrington (@BNHarrington) March 16, 2012
Tampa Bay Lightning: This is how playoff hopes go from slim to none.
The Lightning came home with seven straight games to be played at their own barn as sort of their last stand if they were to make the playoffs. Fail.
You just can't lose 3-1 to the Maple Leafs who are in the swan dive of all swan dives since the first week of February. That's two points more or less flushed down the toilet.
Now their playoff hopes are going down the pipes with the two points. Because Tampa Bay is now 10 points back of the division-leading Panthers so that race is done, and they are seven back of the Capitals for eighth. That's probably out of reach too. That makes for a disappointing followup to last year's Eastern finals showing.
[Related: Maple Leafs 3, Lightning 1]
Goal of the night
Here is one reason why the Lightning lost to the Leafs. Jake Gardiner scored one pretty goal.