Three teams entered Tuesday with a chance to clinch a playoff berth. Only one team succeeded.
Patience is a cruel test.
Dallas had no issue with taking the easy road. The Stars have been a thorn in the Chicago Blackhawks' side all season, and Tuesday's effort was no different. Even without Tyler Seguin on the ice, the Stars' fourth line torched Scott Darling and the Blackhawks for four goals in the first period alone. It was the third time that Dallas had scored four in the first period this year (and only the sixth time in the last 13 years), and two of those instances have come at the United Center. Dallas rode that wave for the next 40 minutes, and now head to the playoffs with a shot at the Western Conference's top seed.
The other two hopefuls didn't fare as well. I don't think the Ducks went into Montreal expecting a firefight, but that's exactly what they got. Not that they didn't bring offensive prowess of their own. Jakob Silfverberg's second goal was a scorcher and Rickard Rakell broke out some sweet dangles. But the Ducks' defense and goalie John Gibson weren't up to par, and so their playoff celebration has to wait.
Meanwhile, the Sharks ran into a stone wall in St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott. As good as he was, the Sharks have themselves to blame for not scoring on a 6-on-3 power play with two minutes left in the game. You've run out of excuses at that point.
And you should never count on the Oilers for anything.
Coyotes 4, Oilers 2
Sabres 3, Hurricanes 2
Blue Jackets 3, Flyers 2 (SO)
Canadiens 4, Ducks 3
Capitals 4, Senators 2
Lightning 6, Red Wings 2
Jets 2, Canucks 0
Wild 2, Kings 1
Stars 6, Blackhawks 2
Blues 1, Sharks 0
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3 things we learned
1. The Flyers may have cost themselves a playoff berth Tuesday
There's a decent chance that the margin by which Philadelphia makes or misses the playoffs will be one point. If they happen to fall on the wrong side of that line they'll have their game in Columbus to blame. The Flyers were up 2-0 with less than two minutes left in the game when Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson combined to ruin their week.
Philly went on to lose in a shootout, giving up a massive point to one of the worst teams in the NHL. The worst possible result.
2. The Capitals, like most great teams, are not content with success
Washington pulled off the first huge regular season achievement this season, beating Ottawa to win the Eastern Conference's top overall seed on Tuesday. And yet, you'd be hard-pressed to find a Capitals player happy with how they played:
Here's some of what Holtby said after the game. pic.twitter.com/NaKmBPUFlY— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) March 23, 2016
The mark of a great team often isn't just results. It's recognizing how you earned those results and whether you should be proud of that. The Capitals may have locked up playoff fortune for now but they certainly aren't playing like they're capable of sustaining their success for a cup run. To hear players acknowledge that and grumble about it is an encouraging sign for a franchise not known for playoff success.
3. John Tortorella is capable of joy
No, really! We found photographic evidence:
There was a lot of hockey played on Tuesday. Plenty of moments that came during the course of actual hockey could qualify here. But none had the impact "Cotton Eye Joe" had on Justin Williams:
Stat of the Night