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Canucks stake claim as best in the West

The Vancouver Canucks wrapped up the top seed in the Western Conference with a 3-1 win at Nashville on Thursday.

Wednesday, 30.03.2011 / 11:36 AM / Features
By John Kreiser
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Canucks stake claim as best in the West
The Vancouver Canucks wrapped up the top seed in the Western Conference with a 3-1 win at Nashville on Thursday.

The Vancouver Canucks are officially the best of the West.

Vancouver clinched first place in the Western Conference by rallying for three goals in the third period for a 3-1 victory at Nashville on Tuesday night. Alex Burrows scored twice, including the go-ahead goal on a breakaway with 2:29 remaining, and Aaron Rome hit the empty net for his first goal in 109 games.

In the East, the two teams chasing eighth-place Buffalo both helped themselves. Ninth-place Carolina won 3-2 in a shootout at Washington to move within three points of eighth-place Buffalo. The Sabres lost 4-3 at Toronto, which stayed alive and moved within five points of the last playoff berth.

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

Western Conference

Division leaders:

Vancouver (111 points after Tuesday's 3-1 win at Nashville) wrapped up the Western Conference title by scoring three third-period goals to end the Predators' six-game winning streak. The Canucks set a franchise mark with their ninth consecutive road win and finished a 4-0-0 Midwest trip. They need three more points to clinch the Presidents' Trophy for the first time in franchise history.

Detroit (98 points) had the day off after getting only one point in a 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago on Monday. The Wings can reach the 100-point mark for the 11th consecutive season by beating St. Louis at Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday.

San Jose (97 points) is off until Thursday, when Dallas comes to HP Pavilion. The Sharks have been off since Saturday's 4-1 win at Phoenix

The next five:

Phoenix (95 points after Tuesday's 2-1 home shootout win against Dallas) got a magnificent effort from goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who made 44 saves through 65 minutes and four more in the shootout. Ray Whitney got the deciding goal in the fifth round to stay ahead of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles (94 points after Tuesday's 2-0 win at Edmonton) got a 32-save performance by rookie Jonathan Bernier and two goals from captain Dustin Brown. The competition level goes up exponentially on Thursday when the Kings go from playing the last-place Oilers to the Vancouver Canucks, the leaders in the overall standings.

Nashville (92 points after Tuesday's 3-0 home loss to Vancouver) was 20 minutes away from a seventh consecutive win but couldn't close the deal. Mike Fisher's second-period goal gave the Predators a 1-0 lead through 40 minutes, but Vancouver scored three times in the third while outshooting Nashville 14-2. The Predators visit Colorado on Thursday.

Anaheim (91 points) had the day off after Teemu Selanne's five-point night helped the Ducks hold off Colorado 5-4. The Ducks have a big game at Calgary on Wednesday.

Chicago (90 points after Tuesday's 3-0 loss at Boston) looked a little road-weary against the Bruins, allowing a pair of goals late in the second period and another early in the third while playing for the second time in two nights and the third in four. The Hawks have two days off before they visit Columbus on Friday.

On the outside looking in:

Dallas (87 points after Tuesday's 2-1 shootout loss at Phoenix) outshot Phoenix 45-27, but only received a second-period goal from Jamie Benn that tied the game 1-1. The Stars got the first goal of the shootout, but Kari Lehtonen allowed goals by Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney. They head to California for their next three games.

Calgary (87 points) finally gets back on the ice Wednesday when Anaheim comes to the Scotiabank Saddledome for a must-win game.

Eastern Conference
Division leaders

Philadelphia (102 points after Tuesday's 5-2 win at Pittsburgh) set a franchise record for road victories by winning for the 25th time away from home this season, including all three visits to the Consol Energy Center. Sergei Bobrovsky improved to 3-1-1 against Pittsburgh by making 25 saves to give the Flyers some breathing room in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference races.

Washington (99 points after Tuesday's 3-2 home shootout loss to Carolina) got Alex Ovechkin and Jason Arnott back from injuries, but lost yet another shootout -- the Caps are 4-6 in the tiebreaker. Alexander Semin had a goal and an assist, but neither Ovechkin nor Nicklas Backstrom could score in the shootout, costing the Caps a point as they chase Philadelphia for the top spot in the East.

Boston (94 points after Tuesday's 3-0 home win against Chicago) rode the goaltending of Tim Thomas and second-period goals by Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk to a victory against the Hawks. The win kept the Bruins five points in front of Washington for first place in the Northeast Division. Thomas made 32 saves for his ninth shutout of the season.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (98 points after Tuesday's 5-2 home loss to Philadelphia) had its run of four consecutive shootout victories snapped decisively by the Flyers. Alex Kovalev and Tyler Kennedy twice put the Penguins ahead, but Pittsburgh was again let down by its power play -- the Pens were 0-for-4 with the extra man and are in a 3-for-59 slump.

Tampa Bay (91 points after Tuesday's 5-2 home win against Ottawa) moved within one point of officially ending a playoff drought that goes back to 2007. Martin St. Louis and Dominic Moore both scored twice for the Lightning, who can lock up a postseason berth by beating Pittsburgh in Tampa on Thursday night.

Montreal (89 points after Tuesday's 3-1home win against Atlanta) ended its longest scoring drought since 1928 when Roman Hamrlik opened the scoring against the Thrashers at 12:56 of the opening period -- the Habs hadn't scored in 199:01 and were shut out three times last week. Mathieu Darche scored 11 seconds later, and that was enough offense for Carey Price, who made 27 saves. The Habs go right back to work on Wednesday, when they visit Carolina.

New York Rangers (87 points) had its third consecutive off-day before beginning a stretch of three road games in four days with a visit to Buffalo on Wednesday.

Buffalo (85 points after Tuesday's 4-3 loss at Toronto) overcame deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 to tie the Leafs early in the second period, but couldn't get another puck past rookie goaltender James Reimer. The Sabres missed a chance to pull even with the Rangers, but they'll have another opportunity when New York comes to the HSBC Arena on Wednesday.

On the outside looking in:

Carolina (82 points after Tuesday's 3-2 shootout win at Washington) finally found a way to beat the Caps, who had won the first five meetings this season. Jeff Skinner had the tying goal in the third period and the winner in the shootout. The 'Canes are back home on Wednesday night for a visit from Montreal.

Toronto (80 points after Tuesday's 4-3 home win against Buffalo) won a game it couldn't afford to lose when Mikhail Grabovski scored the go-ahead goal at 13:35 of the second period. Rookie James Reimer made 28 saves for Toronto, which is off Wednesday before visiting Boston on Thursday.