The San Jose Sharks closed in on their ninth straight year in the NHL playoffs by trouncing the Minnesota Wild 6-1 on Thursday.
Marty Havlat scored twice against his former team as the Sharks remained tied for fourth place with Los Angeles in the Western Conference. The top four are to get home ice advantage in the first round of playoffs.
Also on Thursday, Los Angeles beat Columbus to slow the Blue Jackets’ late-season surge, the New York Islanders beat Toronto to cut the gap between the teams to two points, Ottawa ended Washington’s eight-game winning streak and Dallas boosted their playoff hopes with a victory over Vancouver.
San Jose’s Logan Couture added two goals and two assists, and Raffi Torres and Joe Pavelski also scored for the Sharks, who have won three straight.
The Wild dropped behind St Louis into seventh place in the conference. Minnesota has a four-point lead over ninth-place Dallas and Detroit.
Los Angeles’ Kyle Clifford scored the tie-breaking goal as the Kings edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1.
Jonathan Quick made 20 saves for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who kept pace with San Jose for fourth place in the West by snapping Columbus’ five-game winning streak.
Columbus, who were last in the NHL on Feb. 25, but is 16-5-5 since, leads Detroit and Dallas by two points in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
New York’s John Tavares had two goals and an assist as the Islanders rallied past the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3.
The Islanders overcame an early 2-0 deficit to win the first of five straight road games they will play to end the regular season. New York earned their fifth win in six games, while seeking a playoff berth for the first time since 2007.
The Leafs were outshot 38-21.
Ottawa’s Kyle Turris scored twice as the Senators halted the Washington Capitals’ streak with a 2-1 victory.
The Senators won their fourth straight game and moved within a point of Toronto for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Washington, who have not lost this month, saw their lead over Winnipeg in the Southeast Division trimmed to two points.
Dallas’ Cody Eakin, Jamie Benn and Ray Whitney scored goals early in the third period to break open a tied game and lead the Stars to a 5-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks.
The Stars have won six of their past seven games to move into a tie with Detroit for ninth in the West, two points behind Columbus for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference. The Stars have five games remaining, including one against the Blue Jackets in Dallas on Thursday and the finale against Detroit at home on April 27.
Montreal’s Brian Gionta scored his second goal of the game with 47 seconds left in regulation to give the Candiens a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, stopping a three-game skid.
St Louis goalie Brian Elliott stopped all three chances in a shootout for the second straight game, bouncing back after a late goal denied him a fourth shutout this month, as the Blues beat the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 to move a step closer to a playoff berth.
Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien scored 1:23 into overtime as the Jets beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 to boost their playoff ambitions and notch a season-high fifth straight win.
New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur stopped 23 shots for his 121st career shutout, helping to keep New Jersey’s slim playoff hopes alive with a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
New York’s Rick Nash had a goal and assist in the first period, and Ryan Callahan had a pair of assists as the Rangers beat the Florida Panthers 6-1 to hang on to eighth place in the East.