Sidney Crosby closed out the regular season with a five-point performance on Sunday for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are trying to repeat their Stanley Cup success.
There was plenty of other drama on the final day of the regular season as the Philadelphia Flyers clinched a playoff spot with a winner-take-all shootout win over the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils earned the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a victory over Buffalo.
The disappointment on Sunday went to Alex Ovechkin, who lost the goal scoring race to rival Crosby and the Chicago Blackhawks, who failed to secure the top seed in the Western Conference when they were beaten in overtime by Detroit.
Crosby finished with 51 goals and tied 20-year-old Tampa Bay forward Steve Stamkos for the league’s goal-scoring title.
He becomes only the second Penguin ever to lead the National Hockey League in goals, joining Mario Lemieux, who was the league goal-scoring champion three times, including back-to-back seasons in 1987-1988 and 1988-1989.
“He was in a race and we wanted to put him in a position to do what he could,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said.
“It’s a delicate balance to try to get to the playoffs as healthy as we can, while also playing the game,” he said.
Ovechkin’s Russian Olympic teammate Evgeni Malkin complemented Crosby’s huge performance with two goals and two assists in a 6-5 Penguins win over the Islanders.
Two-time reigning Most Valuable Player Ovechkin was held scoreless in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins.
Ovechkin, who had 50 goals, was trying to become the first player to win the Maurice Richard Trophy three years in a row since Brett Hull from 1990 to 1992.
Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin won the league scoring title by finishing with 112 points, three points ahead of Crosby and Ovechkin.
“It is a great honor to win this trophy, the names of past winners are many of the players we looked up to growing up in Sweden,” Sedin said.
The Capitals are one of the favorites to make it to the Stanley Cup finals and they know their first round opponents will be the Montreal Canadiens.
In Philadelphia, Brian Boucher stopped a backhand by Olli Jokinen to lift Philadelphia to a 2-1 shootout win over New York that locked up the Flyers’ playoff spot.
Claude Giroux and Danny Briere scored in the shootout for the Flyers, who clinched the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and will play New Jersey in the first round.
“You play a game like that and you win, and your emotions run pretty high,” Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said.
“It’s an emotional game. The guys did everything they could possibly do to make sure we’re moving on. I feel we played a terrific hockey game and when you win one like this it feels good,” he said.
Giroux got the winner in the shootout, snapping a wrist-shot past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist in the winner-take-all game, which dashed New York’s post-season hopes.
The Rangers forced the one-game showdown when they beat the Flyers on Friday.
Lundqvist was superb on Sunday, but Flyers forward Matt Carle tied the game 1-1 early in the final period.
Boucher finished with 24 saves for the Flyers, while Swede Lundqvist stopped 46 shots for the Rangers, who have won five of six games heading into Sunday’s contest.
“I think everybody on the bench was thinking about that last shot that he [Boucher] stopped,” Briere said. “That was a big rush for us on the bench. I can’t imagine what it was for him.”
Jamie Langenbrunner scored with three seconds to play as New Jersey locked up the second spot in the Eastern Conference with a 2-1 win over Buffalo.
With the Sabres skating two men down and needing to win in regulation to secure the No. 2 spot, Patrick Lalime started to skate to the bench to give Buffalo another attacker, but Langenbrunner shot into the empty net just before the goaltender got there.
Travis Zajac scored the other goal, while Martin Brodeur made 22 saves for New Jersey.
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