NHL Scores: Blackhawks, Penguins clinch playoff spots

Jonathan Daniel

The league's top two teams both earned tickets to play for the Stanley Cup on Sunday.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins both are headed to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after Sunday's action. It was only fitting that the league's two best teams clinched playoff berths in dominating fashion.

Chicago bested the Predators with a 5-3 win, and never has a team made beating a red-hot Pekka Rinne look so effortless. Rinne was at his very best, stopping 35 of 39 shots with a few dazzling saves. But as usual, the Blackhawks were completely unrelenting. Not only did they clinch, but Chicago sent a message to the rest of the league that they are not to be trifled with come May.

Meanwhile, the Penguins clinched without even playing. Talk about dominance!

All The NHL Scores

Get caught up on Wednesday's NHL scores with recaps from our network of SB Nation team blogs. Here's a quick glance at the full night of action:

Blues 1, Red Wings 0

Stars 5, Sharks 4 (SO)

Panthers 2, Senators 1

Wild 3, Blue Jackets 0

Capitals 4, Lightning 2

Blackhawks 5, Predators 3

Sabres 3, Devils 2 (SO)

Ducks 4, Kings 3 (SO)

Five Answers

Prior to last night's games, we presented five burning questions regarding the night's action. Here are your cool, soothing answers.

1. Is this the end of the line for New Jersey?

0-3-4. That's the Devils' record over the last seven games after a wasted opportunity against the Buffalo Sabres. Yes, the Devils did manage to get a point out of the shootout loss and tied the Jets for ninth. But at this point they need all the points they can get, especially with the Jets and Isles resting and as the number of games remaining continue to dwindle. After earning two points, the Sabres are now just two points back of the Jets with a game in hand.

Also, an interesting stat: if teams only earned points for a win, the Devils would be 14th in the Eastern Conference right now with 30 points.

2. What will a win (or a loss) to the Blues say about the Red Wings?

The Wings had absolutely nothing for the Blues in a shutout loss. The loss seems to highlight Detroit's tendency to not play well in big games. That's especially concerning considering the Wings fell to eighth and are now right in the thick of the playoff hunt. Every game is a must-win now for Detroit if they want to be playing in May.

3. Will the Sharks continue their impressive winning streak you haven't been paying attention to?

They fought tooth and nail, but fell short against the Stars. It doesn't help when you give up a two-goal lead twice in the same game. Last time the Sharks streak ended in a shootout, they lost their next six games. Stars broadcaster Daryl Reaugh said the Sharks seemed "arrogant" in that they seemed to be going through the motions expecting their streak to continue against the weaker Stars. At any rate, San Jose's entire performance underwhelmed.

4. So, does Ben Bishop give Tampa Bay a shot at the Southeast?

You can probably stick a fork in the Lightning (but not in real life, that would be dangerous) after their loss to Washington on Sunday. They now sit a full eight points behind both the division-leading Caps and the eighth-seeded Islanders. With just 10 games remaining, even sniffing the playoffs will be a daunting task for Tampa Bay.

5. What does the Freeway Faceoff look like with two elite teams?

Physical. End-to-end action. Essentially, the league's fastest-growing rivalry was about as thrilling as you'd expect from two of the West's top teams. The Ducks had a lead going into the final five minutes of the third, but this game was destined for overtime. If the Hockey Gods are kind, they'll give us a SoCal playoff series.

Impact Moment

What moment from last night's games will be making headlines in the coming days?

Alex Ovechkin tied Steven Stamkos for the league-lead in goals with his 24th and 25th on Sunday. Is he suddenly a Hart Trophy candidate?:

Stats of the Night

Steve Sullivan is old:

Also, while you're still thinking about the Hart Trophy race:

Post to Post

More in the NHL:

Every deadline day trade

Grading the trading

Pitkanen injury renews hybrid icing debate

Why puck possession matters

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