Winner & Losers: Rangers punch playoff ticket, Leafs pounded by Bruins

It's turned into that kind of season again for Toronto. (@MHCranberry)

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.

Monday's scoreboard


Buffalo Sabres: Well that's how you put the rest of the conference on notice. Either that or it's just good to play the Tampa Bay Lightning these days. Probably more the latter.

The Buffalo Sabres waltzed into Tamba Bay Times Forum like they own the place, then played like it too. They lit up Bolts goaltenders Dustin Tokarski and Dwayne Roloson enroute to a 7-2 win.

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Unfortunately for them, it's the same as a one-goal win as far as the standings are concerned and they gained no ground on a playoff spot thanks to one of the night's other big winners. Although it did pull them out of the tie with the Jets in ninth place for the time being.

Now this is how you make up as much ground in the last month or so as the Sabres have. It was the ninth time in the last 11 games that the Sabres have picked up at least one point, including the past five. Boy, if the Sabres couldn't have that middle stretch of the season back when Ryan Miller was coming back from the concussion ...

[Related: Sabres 7, Lightning 3]

Washington Capitals: If there were one team you could say the Washington Capitals have the number of this season it would be the Detroit Red Wings .

You might remember early this season the Capitals won their seventh straight to start the season by dismantling Detroit 7-1 in Washington. A lot has changed since then, the Caps are now teetering on the playoff bubble instead of atop the NHL but not their success against the Red Wings. That's still there.

Alex Ovechkin scored twice and Mike Knuble scored his third goal this week to give the Caps a lead big enough they could hold on to and keep their two-point cushion on the Sabres in the East.

It's turning into an alright road trip for the Caps. I had a feeling that this five-game stretch was going to cripple the team and might actually spell their doom, but so far they are 2-2 on the trip with one more visit coming to Philadelphia before they get back to the much friendlier confines of home. What's more is that they keep the pressure on the Panthers in the Southeast, moving back to within three points.

[Related: Capitals 5, Red Wings 3 | Helm out 4-6 weeks for Wings]

New York New York Rangers : The boys on Broadway became the second team in the NHL and first in the Eastern Conference to make their entry into the playoffs official by beating the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Monday night.

As you'd expect, the game was physical and intense, beginning with three fights on the opening faceoff. The raucous MSG crowd got even louder when Brandon Dubinsky scored about a minute later and the Rangers led the rest of the way.

The season series between the two is done and it was split 3-3.

[Related: Rangers 4, Devils 2 | Game begins with three fights]


Toronto Maple Leafs: So who'd a thunk that their 7-0 loss earlier this season to the Bruins wouldn't only be their second-worst loss in the season series? Oof. Toronto Maple Leafs , meet rock bottom. The fans at the top don't seem to approve of this position.

Thankfully for Toronto, the six games against the Boston Bruins are done. The final aggregate score? Try 36-10 with all six going to Boston this season.

This game was so one-sided that Tim Thomas only had to make 13 saves for the shutout. It was so one-sided that Brian Rolston had a four-point night (one goal and three assists).

Thanks for playing, Toronto.

San Jose Sharks: I haven't been able to shake the feeling all this time that, for as much danger as the San Jose Sharks appear to be in, they're going to win the Pacific Division title. Well I'm finding it easier to shake now.

With the Pacific basement dwellar- Anaheim Ducks visiting the Shark Tank, you figured the Sharks were due some points, especially against backup goaltender Jeff Deslauriers . Not so much. The rest of the division and the Western Conference thanked the Ducks.

The loss keeps the Sharks out of a playoff spot while burning a game in hand on the teams they are chasing. In fact, they technically dropped below the Kings as they now have equal points in an equal number of games and the Kings have more Regulation and OT wins so they take over ninth for the moment.

This was supposed to be the one layup they had on the schedule before a finishing stretch of nine of their last 10 games coming against teams that are currently in playoff position. The only non-playoff team left is at these same Ducks. It's not going to get any easier for the Sharks at all.

Vancouver Canucks: As my colleague Adam Gretz detailed in this week's Power Rankings, the Vancouver Canucks are just kind of floundering to the finish line this season. Monday night was Exhibit A of that.

I know the Minnesota Wild are a tough defensive team and all, but a team like the Canucks should be able to put up at least one goal on a team that everybody else has been beating in the second half of the season. Alas, they were shutout by Josh Harding on this night, spoiling an otherwise good start for Cory Schneider.

Again, the Canucks aren't in any danger of being caught in the Northwest Division, but they'd probably like to go into the playoffs on a good note, and right now they are coming up flat, not sharp.

[Related: Wild 2, Canucks 0]

Fight of the night

Usually I'll put a goal of the night here and there were a lot of them to choose from despite only six games, but tonight I'm going to go with the fisticuffs.

And with all due respect to the triple fight in New York, Milan Lucic getting his shot at Mike Komisarek deserves it's own spot too.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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