Winners & Losers: Rangers claim top spot in east
The Rangers securing the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference was just one of many big stories to unfold on Tuesday night around the NHL.
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.
New York Rangers: It's official. The New York Rangers are going to enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, wrapping up the top spot with an impressive 5-3 win over the Flyers in Philadelphia.
Being the top seed doesn't necessarily mean anything once the playoffs start, and if the Rangers are to go on on to win the Stanley Cup they will be the first No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference to do so since the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2003-04 season.
[Related: Rangers 5, Flyers 3 -- Playoff Picture]
San Jose Sharks: I've been saying it for a few days now, but for all of the problems they've had over the past few weeks the San Jose Sharks still controlled their own destiny, and after their 5-2 win in Dallas on Tuesday night they're now back to within one point of the top spot in the Pacific Division and back into the top-eight in the Western Conference.
It also sets the stage for what should be an incredible home-and-home set with the Los Angeles Kings to close out the regular season, a series of games that could not only decide which team wins the division, but also which team makes -- or doesn't make -- the postseason at all.
It all starts on Thursday night in Los Angeles. It's the playoffs before the playoffs.
[Related: Sharks 5, Stars 2]
Phoenix Coyotes: Elsewhere in the Pacific, the Phoenix Coyotes also earned a huge win by blanking the Columbus Blue Jackets, 2-0, and moving into a tie with the Kings for first place in the division with 93 points.
The story of the night, of course, was goalie Mike Smith and his incredible 54-save performance to record his third straight shutout, and also his eighth of the season.
[Related: Coyotes 2, Blue Jackets 0 -- Smith stops 54 shots for third straight shutout]
Dallas Stars: Their second straight loss to the Sharks, and their third straight loss overall, may prove to be a crushing blow for the Stars playoff chances, especially when their final two games of the regular season are against Nashville and St. Louis.
Florida Panthers: They were so close to ending 10 years of frustration. Not only did Tomas Fleischmann's last second breakaway get turned aside by Ondrej Pavelec, but before all of that happened the Panthers let a three-goal lead slip away to a Winnipeg Jets team that had absolutely nothing left to play for.
The playoffs are still looking likely, but with the way the past three weeks have gone, you just never know at this point.
[Related: Jets 5, Panthers 4 -- Panthers were this close to winning division]
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