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The playoff race ramps up

Friday, 25.03.2011 / 11:25 AM / Features
By John Kreiser
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The playoff race ramps up

The Los Angeles Kings got the two points they wanted, even if they did give one away.

The Kings were seconds away from beating the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in regulation on Thursday night, only to have Patrick Marleau score at 19:55 of the third period. But the Kings regrouped, made it through a scoreless overtime and won the game 4-3 in a shootout on Dustin Brown's goal in the fifth round.

The two points give the Kings 90 and jumped them into fifth place in the Wild West. They are three points behind fourth-place Phoenix and five behind San Jose, the leader in the Pacific Division and third in the conference.

In the East, Boston took command in the Northeast Division race by routing second-place Montreal 7-0.

Here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Thursday night's games:

Eastern Conference

Division leaders

Philadelphia (98 points after Thursday's 2-1 home shootout loss to Pittsburgh) tied an NHL record by playing in its fourth consecutive shootout. But the Flyers lost for the third time in that span when Sergei Bobrovsky was beaten in the fourth round. Mike Richards had Philadelphia's lone goal in regulation, and Bobrovsky got the Flyers a point by making 30 saves.

Washington (96 points) has a chance to pull even with Philadelphia in points by winning at Ottawa on Friday. One night later, the Caps complete their six-game, two-week trip where they began it -- in Montreal.

Boston (92 points after Thursday's 7-0 home win against Montreal) played an almost-perfect game in demolishing its longtime rival. The Bruins got a goal by Johnny Boychuk 61 seconds into the game and never looked back -- capping the game when Gregory Campbell scored a 3-on-5 goal to complete the scoring. The win put the B's five points ahead of Montreal in the Northeast Division race.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (94 points after Thursday's 2-1 shootout win at Philadelphia) deserved the two points it got when Chris Kunitz beat Sergei Bobrovsky in the fourth round of the shootout. The Penguins dominated play for most of the night, limiting the Flyers to 20 shots. They don't get much chance to enjoy the win, with New Jersey waiting for them back in Pittsburgh for a Friday night game.

Tampa Bay (89 points) begins a home-and-home series with Carolina on Friday night at the St. Pete Times Forum. The Lightning have struggled in March, going 2-5-4 and looking little like the team that led the Southeast Division for much of the season.

Montreal (87 points after Thursday's 7-0 loss at Boston) will want to burn the tapes of its visit to TD Garden. The Habs were dominated from the opening faceoff to the final siren.

New York Rangers (85 points after Thursday's 2-1 home shootout loss to Ottawa) looked listless for most of the night against the last-place Senators. Brandon Prust's third-period goal got the Rangers a point, but the Blueshirts were 0-for-5 in the shootout before Erik Karlsson beat Henrik Lundqvist for the win. The Rangers start a four-game trip at Boston on Saturday afternoon.

Buffalo (81 points) had another day off Thursday, but the entire team was at HSBC Arena for a public memorial to celebrate the life of former Sabres star Richard Martin, who died of a heart attack earlier this month. The Sabres host Florida on Friday and New Jersey on Saturday.

On the outside looking in:

Carolina (78 points) starts its biggest weekend of the season with the front end of a home-and-home series at Tampa Bay on Friday.

Toronto (78 points after Thursday's 4-3 win at Colorado) refuses to go away. The Leafs moved within three points of eighth place thanks to two goals by Nikolai Kulemin and some late goaltending heroics by rookie James Reimer. After wins at Minnesota and Colorado, the Leafs face a tough hurdle in the finale of a three-game trip -- they visit Detroit on Saturday night.

Western Conference

Division leaders:

Vancouver (105 points) had the day off after Wednesday's big 2-1 win at Detroit. Roberto Luongo, who made 39 saves in the win against the Wings, is expected to play Friday in Atlanta, with Cory Schneider in the net Sunday at Columbus.

Detroit (95 points) had the day off -- but captain Nicklas Lidstrom was busy. The city of Novi, Mich., where he and his family live during the season, renamed the street in front of the local ice rink as Nick Lidstrom Drive. The Wings don't play until Saturday's home game against Toronto.

San Jose (95 points after Thursday's 4-3 shootout loss at Los Angeles) tied the Kings twice in the final 3:32 of regulation and actually took the lead in the shootout when Dan Boyle scored in the first round. But L.A. scored twice to limit the Sharks to a single point, giving them a two-point margin over the Coyotes in the Pacific Division going into Saturday's game at Glendale. The one point did get San Jose even with Detroit, though the Wings have a game in hand.

The next five:

Phoenix (93 points after Thursday's 3-0 home win against Columbus) continues to find ways to win. The Coyotes got second-period goals by defensemen Michal Rozsival and Derek Morris and another in the third by Mikkel Boedker to go along with a 29-save performance by Ilya Bryzgalov. The Coyotes are 2-1-0 on their six-game homestand, which continues with a visit from San Jose on Saturday.

Los Angeles (90 points after Thursday's 4-3 home shootout win against San Jose) had to overcome a pair of tying goals by the Sharks in the final minutes of regulation before winning in a shootout. Dustin Brown scored twice in regulation and got the winner in the tiebreaker to move the Kings up to fifth. The one drawback for the Kings: A League-leading nine of their wins have come in shootouts, meaning the Kings will have fewer non-shootout wins than any of their rivals if they end up tied in the standings.

Nashville (90 points after Thursday's 5-4 home win against Anaheim) led 5-1 in the third period before getting into penalty trouble and hanging on at the end for their fifth consecutive victory. Sergei Kostitsyn scored twice and Pekka Rinne made 34 saves as the Predators won their fifth in a row.

Chicago (88 points) had the first of two days off before Anaheim comes to the United Center on Saturday night.

Anaheim (87 points after Thursday's 5-4 loss at Nashville) ran out of time against the Predators. One night after tying Dallas in the final seconds and winning in OT, the Ducks nearly overcame a 5-1 deficit in the third period. Teemu Selanne scored two of the three goals during the comeback, and Corey Perry had his 41st and 42nd in a losing cause.

On the outside looking in:

Dallas (86 points) might have the toughest road of any playoff hopeful. The Stars start a five-game trip in Nashville on Saturday, then play at Phoenix and visit the three California teams.

Calgary (85 points) is back in Alberta after losing three games in four nights in California. But the Flames aren't home yet -- they visit Edmonton on Saturday night. They'll try to extend their provincial rivals' losing streak to nine games. With just six games of their own remaining, the Flames can't afford to lose.