Detroit made sure its streak of consecutive postseason appearances will live on for another year on Wednesday night by earning a point in Pittsburgh, clinching one of the two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference with its shootout loss (a shootout that featured one of the best saves of the season). This team might have had to overcome the most obstacles out of the previous 22 teams having to fight through so many major injuries to key players and relying on so many different young players and minor league call ups. The Red Wings will play either Boston or Pittsburgh in the first round.
Because of that likely first-round matchup with the Penguins it was thought that the game on Wednesday would be some sort of "statement" game given the strong possibility of a best-of-seven series next week, but nothing like that really played out. The Red Wings carried the play at even-strength for certain stretches, but they were also playing a team that had absolutely nothing to play for (Pittsburgh has been locked into the No. 2 seed for at least two weeks).
The rest of the Eastern Conference playoff field was secured on Wednesday with the Columbus Blue Jackets' 3-1 win in Dallas. It will be just the second time in franchise history that Columbus is in the playoffs, and the first time since the 2008-09 playoffs when they were swept in the first round by the Red Wings. This also means that the Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Who all is in? Boston, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Montreal, Tampa Bay, Columbus and Detroit.
The only thing left now is to determine seeding, first-round matchups and which teams will have home-ice advantage.
In the West, Anaheim's 5-2 win over San Jose secured the Pacific Division crown for the Ducks and set up a Los Angeles-San Jose first-round matchup.
All the NHL Scores
Penguins 4, Red Wings 3
Blue Jackets 3, Stars 1
Ducks 5, Sharks 2
Three Things We Learned
1. You can get credit for a goal during a game you did not play in
The Blue Jackets and Stars were making up their game that had to be postponed due to Rich Peverley's heart incident, and the NHL decided it would re-start the game from the beginning but keep the same score at the time of the postponement. It was 1-0 Columbus at the time thanks to a Nathan Horton goal. That goal still counted on Wednesday, but Horton did not play, sitting out the game due to injury and becoming the first player in league history to score a goal in a game he never actually played in. Crazy sport sometimes. Until Dallas scored a late third period goal to break Sergei Bobrovsky's shutout bid it appeared as if he was going to get the game-winning goal.
2. There is only one playoff spot up for grabs, and it will come down to the end
With the Eastern Conference playoff picture settled and seven of the Western Conference playoff teams locked in we're down to just one playoff race with still four days remaining in the regular season. Gary Bettman can't be thrilled about that. The last spot up for grabs is going to come down to Phoenix and Dallas, and the Stars missed out on an opportunity to put some distance between them and the Coyotes with their loss on Wednesday. Dallas remains two points ahead of Phoenix, but the Coyotes still have a game in hand and the two teams will meet in the regular season finale on Sunday.
3. Goalies can score on themselves
Unfortunately for Peter Budaj, his own goal came in overtime on a complete fluke of a play. Those are the breaks sometimes.
The one play or moment from Wednesday that is going to be making headlines over the next couple of days.
Kris Letang not only returned to the lineup just 10 weeks after suffering a stroke, he also played pretty well for the Pittsburgh Penguins in their 4-3 shootout win, setting up Jussi Jokinen's third period goal with a beautiful rush into the offensive zone. Getting him back, as well as veteran defenseman Paul Martin, is a huge boost for their Stanley Cup chances. Wednesday was just the 97th time the Penguins have had both Letang and Martin in the lineup over the past three seasons. They are 65-25-7 in those games.
Stat of the Night
The Kings and Flames played 65 minutes of hockey on Wednesday through regulation and overtime and combined to take zero penalties. It is just the third game this season that has featured no penalties. The Bruins-Capitals game on March 6 and the Avalanche-Wild game on November 30 were the others.
Post to Post
- What went wrong for the Toronto Maple Leafs?
- A different way of looking at defense, and how we can use zone entries to measure it.
- Is the Barry Trotz era coming to an end in Nashville? He is the only coach the team has ever known.
- So what is next for the New Jersey Devils? A look ahead to the 2014 offseason.
- Trevor Linden is back with the Vancouver Canucks. Are you ready for that?