NEW YORK (AP) Rick Nash scored the winning goal with 1:42 left, on New York’s third shot of the third period, and the Rangers clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 2-1 victory over the NHL-worst Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
New York secured second place in the Metropolitan Division when the Philadelphia Flyers lost at Tampa Bay later Thursday. The Rangers will face either the Flyers or Columbus in the playoffs.
The Rangers struggled throughout against the lowly Sabres and goalie Matt Hackett, who played in just his seventh NHL game of the season.
Drew Stafford gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead in the second, and Benoit Pouliot tied in in the final minute of the frame.
LIGHTNING 4, FLYERS 2
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Richard Panik, Eric Brewer and Steven Stamkos had third-period goals to help the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Philadelphia Flyers.
Tyler Johnson had the other goal for Tampa Bay, which moved within a point of Montreal for second place in the Atlantic Division.
Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier scored for the playoff-bound Flyers, who are tied for third in the Metropolitan Division with Columbus.
Anders Lindback played in place of injured Tampa Bay starting goalie Ben Bishop, who may not be ready for the start of a playoff series next week against Montreal due to an upper-body injury.
ISLANDERS 2, CANADIENS 0
MONTREAL (AP) – Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves for his fourth shutout this season, and Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson scored power-play goals late in the second period as the New York Islanders topped the Montreal Canadiens.
The loss, combined with Tampa Bay’s 4-2 win over Philadelphia, hurt the Canadiens’ chances of starting the playoffs on home ice. Montreal is second in the Atlantic Division with 98 points and one game left to play, while the Lightning have 97 points with two games remaining.
The Islanders posted their first regulation win in four games, but improved to 7-2-2 in their last 11 games.
The Canadiens, coming off a 3-2 overtime loss in Chicago on Wednesday, were outshot 30-19.
CAPITALS 5, HURRICANES 2
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Troy Brouwer scored two goals and the Washington Capitals routed the Carolina Hurricanes.
All three members of Washington’s third line – Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr – each had a goal and two assists. They helped the Capitals claim an easy win in this Metropolitan Division matchup of teams knocked out of the playoff race.
Braden Holtby stopped 36 shots for Washington, which won its third straight after losing five in a row.
Jiri Tlusty scored a short-handed goal, Radek Dvorak added a late goal and Anton Khudobin finished with 16 saves for the Hurricanes.
PANTHERS 4, MAPLE LEAFS 2
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) – Nick Bjugstad had two goals and an assist to lift the Florida Panthers over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Brad Boyes and Brandon Pirri also scored for the Panthers. Roberto Luongo, who returned after missing Tuesday’s game with an upper-body injury, made 27 saves.
Paul Ranger and Tyler Bozak scored for the Maple Leafs, and Drew MacIntyre stopped 33 shots. The 30-year-old MacIntyre made his first career NHL start and second appearance for Toronto this season.
SENATORS 2, DEVILS 1, SO
OTTAWA (AP) – Erik Karlsson scored the winner in the shootout to lift the Ottawa Senators to a victory over the New Jersey Devils.
Mike Hoffman also scored for the Senators and Robin Lehner stopped 38 shots to win his third straight game.
Michael Ryder scored his 18th of the season and Cory Schneider had 31 saves for the Devils.
The Senators had a power play for the final 35 seconds of overtime, but couldn’t take advantage.
PREDATORS 2, COYOTES 0
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Pekka Rinne made 29 saves to lead the Nashville Predators over Phoenix and damaging the Coyotes’ playoff hopes.
Craig Smith and Patric Hornqvist scored for Nashville, which has won four of its last five.
The loss hurt Phoenix’s quest for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. The Coyotes entered the day two points behind the Dallas Stars in the wild-card race. Both teams have two games remaining, including Sunday’s season finale when Dallas visits Phoenix.
WILD 4, BLUES 2
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Kyle Brodziak scored two goals and John Curry made 43 saves in his Wild debut to lead Minnesota over the struggling St. Louis Blues.
Nino Niederreiter added a goal and an assist to help the Wild snap a nine-game losing streak against the Blues and win for the sixth time in seven games.
St. Louis dropped its fourth straight and also lost star T.J. Oshie after he was shouldered in the face by Wild enforcer Mike Rupp halfway through a chaotic second period. Rupp was ejected, Oshie dabbed blood from his mouth as he moved slowly back to the locker room after being down on the ice for 5 minutes.
Kevin Shattenkirk and Jaden Schwartz scored for the Blues.
JETS 2, BRUINS 1, SO
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) – Bryan Little scored in the shootout to give the Winnipeg Jets a victory over the Boston Bruins in their last home game of the season.
Little beat Chad Johnson with a low shot between his pads, the only scorer in three rounds.
Winnipeg’s Evander Kane tied the game at 1 with a wrister that beat Johnson over his glove with 1:57 left in the third period.
Brad Marchand scored the opening goal at 10:12 of the first period for the NHL-leading Bruins, who have clinched the top spot in the Eastern Conference and have 115 points to lead the NHL, three ahead of the idle Anaheim Ducks.
KINGS 3, OILERS 0
EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) – Marian Gaborik had two goals and an assist and Martin Jones made just 17 saves for his fourth shutout of the season as the Los Angeles Kings snapped a three-game losing skid.
Anze Kopitar also scored for the Kings, who had won just one of their previous five games. Los Angeles has already clinched third in the Pacific Division and will play second-place San Jose in the first round of the playoffs.
The Edmonton Oilers have lost two in a row and have now been shut out 10 times this season, seven of those coming on home ice. The loss dropped Edmonton into 29th place in the NHL, a point back of Florida, which beat Toronto earlier in the night.
AVALANCHE 4, CANUCKS 2
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) – Tyson Barrie scored the go-ahead goal in the third period as the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Vancouver Canucks.
Paul Stastny added two goals and Semyon Varlamov stopped 38 shots for Colorado, which is 8-0-1 in its last nine games and took over top spot in the Central Division ahead of the scuffling St. Louis Blues.
John Mitchell scored into an empty net for Colorado in the final minute to seal it.
Henrik Sedin and David Booth scored for Vancouver, which got 24 saves from Jacob Markstrom in his first start for the Canucks.