WASHINGTON (AP) — Craig Smith scored twice and Ryan Johansen had the go-ahead goal late in the third period to help the Nashville Predators beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 Thursday night to clinch first place in the Central Division, the top seed in the Western Conference and the best record in the NHL.
Even though it’ll be Pekka Rinne in net for the Predators when they open the playoffs next week, backup Juuse Saros stopped 28 of the 31 shots and captain Roman Josi scored on the power play to give them their first division title in 19 seasons of existence.
MAPLE LEAFS 1
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The New Jersey Devils are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
Patrick Maroon set up second-period goals by Pavel Zacha and Miles Wood and the Devils ended a five-year postseason drought with the victory over Toronto.
Keith Kinkaid, the mainstay in goal since the end of January, made 31 saves as the Devils won their fourth straight and extended their points streak to eight games (7-0-1). He preserved the lead with a stop in close on Austin Matthews with just over seven minutes to play.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jakub Voracek scored with 5:45 left to lift Philadelphia past Carolina.
Claude Giroux, Ivan Provorov and Michael Raffl also scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers would have clinched a playoff spot if Boston beat Florida, but the Panthers topped the Bruins 3-2.
The Flyers seemed in great shape when Giroux put them up 3-2 with 9:42 remaining behind a wrist shot that beat goalie Scott Darling. It extended the Flyers captain’s career-high totals to 31 goals and 98 points. The Hurricanes erased the lead when Brian Elliott let in his second soft goal of the game, this one Jordan Staal’s backhander from a sharp angle near the side boards with 6:19 left.
Elliott returned after missing 25 games following core muscle surgery Feb. 13.
PANTHERS 3, BRUINS 2
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Jared McCann scored with 5:37 left and Roberto Luongo got the win in his 1,000th career game, helping Florida beat Boston to stay in playoff contention.
The Panthers trail Philadelphia by four points for the final Eastern Conference wild card and have two games remaining, including a matchup Sunday night with Boston. Florida needs to win both games and have the Flyers lose to the New York Rangers in regulation Saturday.
BLUE JACKETS 4, OT
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Phil Kessel scored 1:06 into overtime for Pittsburgh, and Columbus earned a point to clinch a playoff spot for the second consecutive season.
Kessel scored for the left circle for his second goal of the game and 33rd of the season. Conor Sheary tied it at 12:16 in the third period.
JETS 2, FLAMES 1
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — Connor Hellebuyck made 31 saves to tie the record for victories in a season by an American goalie and Winnipeg beat Calgary for its fourth straight victory.
Hellebuyck has 43 victories to match the mark set by former Pittsburgh star Tom Barrasso in 1992-93.
NEW YORK (AP) — Thomas Hickey and Anthony Beauvillier scored 2:32 apart in the second period and the New York Islanders kept up their recent mastery of the Rangers.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3
EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Connor McDavid had three assists to push his NHL-leading points total to 106 and help Edmonton beat Vegas.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Matt Benning, Mike Cammalleri and Ty Rattie scored for the Oilers. They snapped a five-game losing skid. Brayden McNabb, Brandon Pirri and Oscar Lindberg replied for the Pacific Division-leading Golden Knights. They had won three in a row.
RED WINGS 3
DETROIT (AP) — Nicolas Deslauriers’ second goal put Montreal ahead late in the second period and the Canadiens held on to beat Detroit.
The Original Six teams are out of the playoff race, finishing up the season playing only for pride.