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NHL scores 2016: Bruins win but keep toying with playoff elimination

Boston is playing a dangerous game.

The Boston Bruins had it in the bag.

A trio of second period goals had given the Bruins a three-goal lead over the St. Louis Blues heading into the final frame. After some shaky play early on, the Bruins looked ready to coast to an important win on Friday.

And then the Blues started creeping back into the picture. St. Louis defenseman Robert Bortuzzo scored during a defensive meltdown in front of Tuukka Rask, and Alex Pietrangelo followed soon after with a tally of his own. In the blink of an eye, a commanding lead had been whittled down to one.

Boston eventually held on for the win, but it looked nervous enough at times to nearly lose everything. And there's a certain symmetry there with the Bruins' current playoff race predicament.

While we've all been focused on the Philadelphia Flyers' ascension to a playoff team, another race has been brewing in the Atlantic Division. The Detroit Red Wings won on Friday, pushing them to 89 points and ahead of the Bruins in the Atlantic. For a moment on Friday, the Bruins were completely outside of the playoff picture. If they had succeeded in their attempts to shoot their own feet off, they would've stayed there.

Boston's dilemma is very real. The Flyers look like a train careening down the tracks without brakes. They aren't slowing down. And if the Bruins actually do slip up this time and give away points to the Blackhawks or Hurricanes before their game against Detroit next Thursday, they'll be playing for their playoff lives. And we might witness the late-season collapse none of us were paying any attention to.

Scores

Red Wings 3, Wild 2

Bruins 6, Blues 5

Blackhawks 5, Jets 4 (OT)

Capitals 4, Avalanche 2

Canucks 3, Ducks 2

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3 things we learned

1. The Predators are finally going to the playoffs

Officially, I mean. They've been there recently, but man it must have been agonizing for their fans over the last week or so. Nashville had been the league's hottest team over the last two months (so much so that it gave the Blackhawks wild card nightmares for about a week) and still missed so many opportunities to clinch a playoff spot. But the Avalanche's continued free-fall down a mountainside (see what I did there) booked Nashville's playoff ticket at last.

2. The Avs' broadcasters excel at incoherent yelling

3. Artemi Panarin is back

The man once known as "Calder Trophy favorite" had lost considerable ground to the Connor McDavid crowd over the last month with just three goals and five points. He almost matched that total in one night, scoring twice and assisting on two other Blackhawks goals for his first four-point night in forever.

Impact Moment

Debates will rage today about whether Tom Wilson was delivering a legal hit when he leveled Avalanche defensemen Nikita Zadorov. Zadorov never returned with a "head injury."

Stat of the Night