The Boston Bruins wrapped up the NHL Eastern Conference regular-season title with a 1-0 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday.
One day after signing a four-year, US$20 million contract extension and five-and-a-half minutes after being hit on the back of his helmet by Sean Avery, Tim Thomas backstopped the Bruins to their sixth straight victory. He made 31 saves for his fifth shutout of the season.
Boston clinched the best record in the East for the first time since 2001-2002 and it might have been a preview of the first playoff round, with the Rangers holding the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference.
Blake Wheeler scored his 21st goal after 9 minute, 4 seconds of the first period.
DUCKS 5, SHARKS 2
In San Jose, California, Ryan Getzlaf set up goals for Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne as Anaheim stayed in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.
Ryan scored two goals — including the 30th of just his second NHL season — in the resurgent Ducks’ 10th win in 12 games, keeping them in seventh place. Mike Brown also scored, while Jonas Hiller made 28 saves for Anaheim, who have won four straight.
Joe Thornton and Milan Michalek scored for the Sharks, whose lead over Boston for the NHL’s best record stands at one point with four games to play.
HURRICANES 3, PENGUINS 2, OT
In Raleigh, North Carolina, Carolina clinched their first playoff berth since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006 when Anton Babchuk scored after 1 minute, 11 seconds of overtime.
Cam Ward stopped 33 shots and matched a club record with his 38th win, helping the Hurricanes extend their team-record home winning streak to 11. Their eight-game overall winning streak is their longest since they won nine in a row in 2005-2006.
Chad LaRose and Eric Staal both scored for the second straight game, while Ray Whitney added two assists for Carolina. Tyler Kennedy had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh and Jordan Staal also scored.
DEVILS 3, SABRES 2
In Buffalo, New York, Martin Brodeur stopped 35 shots — 21 in the third period alone — and Jamie Langenbrunner had a goal and an assist for New Jersey.
Zach Parise and David Clarkson also scored to help the Devils snap a six-game road skid and move to the verge of clinching the Atlantic Division title. New Jersey also matched a franchise record for victories with 49 first set in 2006-2007.
Clarke MacArthur and Jochen Hecht scored for the Sabres, who squandered a great opportunity to put themselves firmly in the hunt for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff berth.
CANADIENS 6, MAPLE LEAFS 2
In Toronto, Jaroslav Halak made 34 saves, while Alex Kovalev had a goal and three assists to help Montreal close in on a playoff spot.
Guillaume Latendresse, Alex Tanguay, Chris Higgins, Maxim Lapierre and Josh Gorges also scored for Montreal.
John Mitchell and Boyd Devereaux scored for Toronto.
SENATORS 4, FLYERS 3, SO
In Ottawa, Mike Fisher scored on Ottawa’s fifth shootout attempt to lift the Senators past Philadelphia.
Jason Spezza scored his 31st goal 3 minutes, 47 seconds into the third period to draw Ottawa even at 3-3. Nick Foligno and Chris Kelly also scored for the Senators. Darroll Powe scored on a penalty shot, while Mike Richards and Simon Gagne added goals for Philadelphia.
Saturday’s other NHL results:
• Oilers 5, Canucks 3
• Predators 5, Blue Jackets 4, SO