Red Wings, Islanders clinch playoff spots as Bruins pushed to brink

The Red Wings clinched their 24th consecutive playoff berth Thursday night. (USATSI)
The Red Wings clinched their 24th consecutive playoff berth Thursday night.(USATSI)

So, a lot happened in the Eastern Conference playoff picture Thursday night.

The Ottawa Senators, thanks to yet another great performance from goaltender Andrew Hammond and a pair of goals just over a minute apart in the second period, defeated the New York Rangers 3-0. The win put them back into playoff position with one game to play.

Meanwhile in South Florida, a 4-2 loss for the Boston Bruins to the Panthers knocked them out of the wild card with just one game remaining. They’re not eliminated yet, but they’re on the brink.

The Bruins loss kicked off a celebration in Nassau County, though. The idle New York Islanders officially clinched a playoff spot after some tense moments these last few days thanks to Boston's loss. There will be postseason hockey in the last year on Long Island. They’re hoping to make it a memorable last hurrah.

The Bruins loss, paired with the Detroit Red Wings earning a point in an overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens Thursday also meant that the Red Wings clinched a playoff spot. This is the 24th consecutive season that Detroit will be in the playoffs. They’re feeling pretty good about it.

The Red Wings’ work isn’t done yet however. The Senators can actually still pass them for third place in the Atlantic, which would put the Red Wings into the wild card where they would have to face either the Rangers or whichever team wins the Atlantic. That one still has to be decided.

The Habs beating the Red Wings put them in the driver's seat to take home the Atlantic, but the Tampa Bay Lightning took care of the New Jersey Devils in a 4-3 win. The Habs have a two-point advantage heading into the final game of the season. As long as they get a point against the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday, they'll be Atlantic champs. If Montreal loses in regulation and Tampa Bay beats the Bruins Saturday, the Lightning would own the tiebreaker and win the division.

There’s only one big game on Friday night that will have an impact on the Eastern race. The Islanders play the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have a one-point lead on the Bruins for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference as of right now.

Saturday will be a huge day in this now three-team race for the last two spots in the East. The Senators play the Philadelphia Flyers, the Penguins get the Buffalo Sabres and the Bruins, with their postseason lives on the line, get the Tampa Bay Lightning. Boston drew the short straw in this one with the Lightning still playing for the division title.

The insanity of this NHL season will continue right into the last day, which is incredibly fun.

CBS Sports Writer

Chris Peters has been a hockey writer for CBS Sports since 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for numerous outlets and edited the United States of Hockey blog, covering the sport at all levels. Peters also... Full Bio

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