Alex Ovechkin became the 11th player in NHL history to score 50 or more goals in a season five times, and the Washington Capitals kept their slim playoff hopes alive by beating the slumping St Louis Blues 4-1 on Tuesday night.
Ovechkin, who added two assists, beat Ryan Miller with a one-timer from the left circle at 17 minutes, 54 seconds of the first period for his 50th goal overall and 23rd on the power play, both league highs. It is Ovechkin’s first 50-goal campaign since 2009-2010, when he scored 50. His single-season high is 65 in the 2007-2008 season.
Nicklas Backstrom scored twice and Mikhail Grabovski added another goal for the Capitals, who have 85 points and are still on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture looking in with three games remaining.
Maxim Lapierre had the only goal for St Louis, who have lost a season-high three straight.
FLYERS 5, PANTHERS 2
In Sunrise, Florida, Claude Giroux scored two goals and the Philadelphia Flyers clinched a playoff berth by beating the Florida Panthers.
Tye McGinn, Sean Couturier and Vincent Lecavalier also scored for the Flyers, while Steve Mason made 38 saves. The Flyers won their second consecutive game after losing the four previous games.
Jonathan Huberdeau and Erik Gudbranson scored for Florida and Dan Ellis stopped 22 shots. Ellis substituted for Roberto Luongo, a late scratch with an upper-body injury. The Panthers have lost six of their past seven games.
LIGHTNING 3, MAPLE LEAFS 0
In Tampa, Florida, Ondrej Palat had two goals, while Anders Lindback came off the bench to make 25 saves as the Tampa Bay Lightning ended Toronto’s playoff hopes by beating the Maple Leafs.
Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop left with 14:17 remaining in the first due to an undisclosed upper-body injury. He was hurt while lunging to his left and landing on his side while attempting to glove the puck. Lindback replaced Bishop, who is 37-14-7 this season for the playoff-bound Lightning.
Victor Hedman had an empty-net goal late in the third for the Lightning, who trail Montreal by two points for second place in the Atlantic Division. Bishop turned aside three shots before departing.
James Reimer stopped 31 shots for the Maple Leafs, who have lost 10 of 12.
RANGERS 4, HURRICANES 1
In New York, Brad Richards scored two power-play goals as the playoff-bound New York Rangers improved their chances for home-ice advantage in the first round with a victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Richards scored in the first period to tie it and then stretched New York’s lead to two goals in the second period with his 20th of the season — the 10th time he has reached the mark in the NHL. Martin St. Louis had his best game with the Rangers with three assists, and Benoit Pouliot and Derek Stepan also scored.
Henrik Lundqvist made 27 saves as the Rangers beat the Hurricanes for the 11th time in 12 games.
Patrick Dwyer scored for Carolina.
RED WINGS 4, SABRES 2
In Buffalo, New York, Darren Helm scored the go-ahead goal 3:33 into the third period to inch the Detroit Red Wings closer to clinching a playoff berth with a win over the Buffalo Sabres.
Brendan Smith, David Legwand and Pavel Datsyuk, into an empty net, also scored for the Red Wings, while Jimmy Howard made 25 saves. Detroit moved within a point of securing one of the Eastern Conference’s two wild-card playoff spots, and extending its run of postseason berths to 23 straight seasons.
The win was the 414th for Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who moved one ahead of Jack Adams for first on the franchise list.
Zemgus Girgensons scored both goals for the Sabres (21-49-9), who are already guaranteed of finishing in last place once the season ends on Sunday.
SENATORS 4, ISLANDERS 1
In Uniondale, New York, Jason Spezza scored twice and Ales Hemsky added an insurance goal as the Ottawa Senators topped the New York Islanders.
Craig Anderson made 45 saves for the Senators, who will still miss the post-season for the first time since 2011 and just the third time since 1996.
They were making their first appearance this season at Nassau Coliseum, and the Islanders won the previous two meetings in Ottawa.
Matt Kassian scored an empty-net goal in the closing seconds, his first of the season.
Frans Nielsen scored the lone goal for the Islanders with his career-best 25th in the team’s home finale.
BLUE JACKETS 4, COYOTES 3, OT
In Columbus, Ohio, Ryan Johansen took a stretch pass from James Wisniewski and scored on a wrist shot at 3:33 of overtime to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Phoenix Coyotes, tying a franchise record for wins.
Sergei Bobrovsky had 29 saves, Blake Comeau, Boone Jenner and Mark Letestu also had goals and Artem Anisimov added two assists for the Blue Jackets. It was their 41st victory to match their most in their 13 seasons.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson sent the game to overtime with a goal with just 14.6 seconds left in regulation, and Martin Erat and Shane Doan also had goals for the Coyotes, who have lost five in a row (0-2-3).
WILD 4, BRUINS 3, SO
In St Paul, Minnesota, Mikko Koivu scored for Minnesota and Ilya Bryzgalov denied all three Boston shots in the shootout, lifting the Wild over the Bruins and clinching a wild-card spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
In other NHL action, it was:
‧ Stars 3, Predators 2, SO
‧ Avalanche 4, Oilers 1