NHL Scores: Coyotes come up short; Avalanche take over 1st place in Central Division

Rich Lam

The Phoenix Coyotes are no longer in control when it comes to making the playoffs, and the Colorado Avalanche have taken over first place in the Central Division.

With 15 of the NHL's 16 playoff spots already clinched there was only one game on Thursday that involved a team -- the Phoenix Coyotes -- still trying to punch its ticket.

It did not go well for them.

With an opportunity to tie the Dallas Stars for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, the Coyotes came up empty in Nashville and were shut out, 2-0, by Pekka Rinne and the Predators.

Phoenix remains two points back of the Stars while each team has two games remaining, including the regular season finale on Sunday where they will meet head-to-head. The Stars own the tiebreaker which means the Coyotes are going to need some help on Friday when Dallas plays the Blues to get in.

Along with that wild card spot, there is still one division championship that has yet to be determined and the Colorado Avalanche took over first place in the Central on Thursday night thanks to their 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues' 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild. The Avalanche received quite a scare when No. 1 overall pick Nathan MacKinnon took a nasty fall into the goal post, but he remained in the game and even added an assist in the win.

The first place Avalanche. Bet that isn't what you expected to see after 80 games this season.

Douglas Murray returned to the Montreal Canadiens' lineup on Thursday and had a pretty short night, earning himself an ejection for a hit from behind.

All the NHL Scores

Rangers 2, Sabres 1

Capitals 5, Hurricanes 2

Islanders 2, Canadiens 0

Senators 2, Devils 1

Lightning 4, Flyers 2

Panthers 4, Maple Leafs 2

Predators 2, Coyotes 0

Wild 4, Blues 2

Jets 2, Bruins 1

Kings 3, Oilers 0

Avalanche 4, Canucks 2

Three Things We Learned

1. Allan Walsh has terrible timing

If you are an agent and are going to support one of your clients by arguing that he can serve as a deterrent from other teams taking runs at his teammates, you better hope he doesn't take a run at somebody else when he finally does get into the lineup. Especially when you send out a Tweet with a hashtag telling people to "fear" him. Unfortunately for Walsh and his client, Minnesota Wild forward Mike Rupp, that is exactly what happened on Thursday night in Minnesota's 4-2 win over the Blues. It is probably going to result in a suspension for Rupp. So much for being a deterrent.

2. The Maple Leafs are getting worse

As if going from third place in the Eastern Conference to out of the playoffs in less than a month was not bad enough, the Maple Leafs showed up in Florida on Thursday and lost 4-2, giving up 37 shots to a Panthers team that averages just 29 per game this season. That is now 15 losses in their past 21 games.

This is what it has come to in Toronto right now.

Mapleleafs_medium

3. The Devils are determined to go winless in the shootout

It really felt like this was going to be the night for the Devils. At some point they're going to a win a shootout, and in a season that has been as frustrating as this the ultimate kick in the stomach would have been finally winning their first shootout after they were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs in large part because they lost their first 11 shootouts of the season. But no, it just was not meant to be and the Devils fell again in the shootout and dropped their record to 0-12 on the season. Their shooters were 0-for-4 on the night and are now three-for-43 for the season.

Your thoughts, Marty?

Devilshockey_medium

Impact Moment

The one play or moment from Thursday that is going to be making headlines over the next couple of days.

Even though they had the night off it was a pretty important night for the Dallas Stars as the Coyotes helped them out by losing in Nashville. All the Stars have to do now is take care of their own business either on Friday against the St. Louis Blues or on Sunday against Phoenix and the playoff spot is theirs.

Stat of the Night

Since joining the Los Angeles Kings Marian Gaborik has five goals and nine assists in 18 games. Even more important: The Kings as a team are up to 2.7 goals per game since the trade. That may not seem like a huge number, but 2.7 goals per game for the season would be good enough for the top half of the league. For a team that dominates the possession game and shuts teams down like the Kings do (their 3-0 win in Edmonton on Thursday was their league-leading 13th shutout of the season) and was one of the worst goal-scoring teams in the league prior to the trade, that is a huge development as the playoffs get closer. Gaborik also has a wicked knuckle puck shot.

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