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NHL playoff picture update: The Islanders are in the playoffs

By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer

Yes, the New York Islanders are back in the playoffs. (USATSI)
Yes, the New York Islanders are back in the playoffs. (USATSI)

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We're into the home stretch of the 2013 regular season and Tuesday night was a huge night for the NHL playoff picture as five teams entered the evening with a chance to secure a playoff spot.

Here are the teams that managed to get the job done.

The New York Islanders clinched a playoff spot

It's been a year for lengthy playoff droughts to come to an end.

First it was the Toronto Maple Leafs, and now it's the New York Islanders. Two teams that probably nobody expected to be in before the season started.

The Islanders didn't need a win to clinch their first postseason berth since 2006-07, but thanks to their shootout loss in Carolina, which gave them one point in the standings, and the Winnipeg Jets regulation loss in Washington the Islanders completed a pretty unbelievable regular season and ended their five-year postseason drought. They needed to come from behind three different times to earn the point, but they managed to get the job done.

Next step? Winning their first postseason series since 1992-93.

Washington Capitals: Southeast Division champions

After their first 11 games the Washington Capitals were 2-8-1, Alex Ovechkin looked like a shell of his former self, and just about everybody gave up on them. Both the team and Ovechkin.

What a difference three months makes.

Thanks to their 5-3 win on Tuesday the Capitals secured their fifth Southeast Division title in the past six seasons. It's been a remarkable turnaround not only for the team as a whole, but also for Ovechkin as he continued to distance himself in the Rocket Richard race with his 31st goal of the season and continued to gain ground in his quest to maybe catch Sidney Crosby for the NHL's scoring title.

The St. Louis Blues -- and Jay Bouwmeester -- are in

The Blues simply needed to gain one point on Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche and they managed to do that with a 3-1 win.

And do you know who is probably the most excited player in that locker room on Tuesday night? Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. Playing in his 10th NHL season Bouwmeester will finally get the opportunity to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs.

He spent nine years and more than 700 games playing for some dreadful teams in Florida and Calgary and finally received the opportunity to play for a contender when he was traded to the Blues at this year's trade deadline.

The Blues haven't received the same quality goaltending they did a year ago but they might be a better overall team this time around. If their goalies can give them even average goaltending in the playoffs they're going to be a very tough team to beat.

Sharks rally late and secure their spot

With less than five minutes to play in regulation the San Jose Sharks trailed the Dallas Stars by a goal.

It took them less than a minute to not only erase that deficit, but to also take the lead on their way to a 3-2 win to secure their spot in the Western Conference playoffs.

Joe Pavelski scored on a tip-in with with 5:37 to play to tie the game, and then just 30 seconds later Logan Couture scored what would prove to be the game-winner.

It's a brutal loss for the Stars as they desperately try to remain in the hunt. After Tuesday's loss they sit in 10th place in the Conference, three points out of the No. 8 spot with just two games to play. The good news? Those two games are against Columbus and Detroit, two of the teams they're chasing in the standings. The bad news? Even if they win both they still need some help.

The only team that had a chance to clinch a playoff spot on Tuesday night and did not do so was the New York Rangers thanks to their 3-2 loss in Florida.

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