There are only two more weekends remaining in the regular season, as teams have in a range of five to eight games left. Saturday’s 13-game slate featured six afternoon starts.
Let’s get right to all the action.
PREDATORS 4, CAPITALS 3
— Nashville became the first Western Conference team to clinch a playoff spot. It wasn’t long ago that it seemed liked this team would’ve done it much sooner.
— Not sure if this team has what it takes to win it all, but Pekka Rinne (25 saves) gives them a chance to go on a very deep run. The Preds jumped out to a 3-0 first-period lead before the Caps made things interesting with three goals (one 20 seconds into the third) to make it 4-3.
— Pretty ironic how Filip Forsberg has one of his better games points-wise in some time, isn’t it? He scored, added two assists and had a plus-two rating. The Capitals could use a skilled forward like him for some top-six depth. He was taken with the 11th pick in the 2012 draft by them. The 20-year-old has 23 goals and 59 points, tops in the NHL.
— Mike Ribeiro (goal, assist), Mike Fisher and Mattias Ekholm were the other goal scorers. Ribeiro is on a three-game points streak, with five during that span. His $1.05 million deal might be the biggest bargain in hockey. It will be interesting to see what he gets on the open market this offseason. He’s 35 years old.
— The Capitals have lost two of their last three games. Since Feb. 1, their score-adjusted Corsi numbers have dropped to tied for 13th in the league at 51.8 percent. It will be worse after this one, too. They are only three points up on the Bruins for the first wild-card spot.
— Braden Holtby (10 saves) couldn’t get out of the first period as he gave up three goals in 14:47. He’s had a stellar year but it remains to be seen how much the workload (66 games) affects him down the stretch.
— Troy Brouwer scored two goals, his first since Feb. 25. He now has 20 on the season, so he’s hit that mark three times in his career. With 38 points, though, he’s a weak option in fantasy leagues. Mike Green got the other marker.
BRUINS 4, RANGERS 2
— Henrik Lundqvist (26 saves) made his first start since Feb. 2 after he suffered a vascular injury when he was hit in the neck with a shot. Boston greeted him with three goals in the first period, on 14 shots. Boston went ahead 4-0 by 5:53 of the second. Rust was to be expected, but I’m not going to fault The King here as the Rangers turned the puck over multiple times and failed miserably on their defensive-zone coverages, giving Lundqvist little help. Lundqvist actually did make a few nice saves, or else this one could’ve been much worse. He has plenty of time to get back into game shape, though Cam Talbot will make the start Sunday afternoon against the Capitals.
— Milan Lucic scored the game’s first two goals. He has 17 goals and 42 points, well off what was expected from him entering the season. Lucic still has an outside chance to salvage his fourth consecutive 20-goal season, though.
— Carl Soderberg (goal, assist) and Reilly Smith also scored for Boston. Soderberg has 12 goals and 40 points this season, and figures to be well compensated as a free agent this offseason as he’s also solid defensively. Smith’s goal was his first since Feb. 22.
— Tuukka Rask was a perfect 14 for 14 in the first period, then he surprisingly took himself out of the game 10 seconds into the second. Luckily for the Bruins, Rask was dealing with dehydration and is set to travel with the team. Niklas Svedberg stopped 16 of 18 in relief.
— New York got goals from Rick Nash and Matt Hunwick. Nash’s 40-goal season is his third of his career, and first since 2008-09. His 65 points are the most since 2010-11. The Rangers will need better "puck luck" from him in the playoffs this go-around.
DUCKS 3, ISLANDERS 2
— Anaheim became the second Western Conference team to clinch a playoff spot. With 103 points, the Ducks are in the lead for the Presidents’ Trophy, by one point.
— Rickard Rakell, Kyle Palmieri and Andrew Cogliano notched goals for the Ducks. Rakell has four points over his past five games, but with 30 in 66 games, he may be a season away from real fantasy value. Palmieiri has seen some nice growth in his game, with 14 goals and 28 points in 52 games. He had 14 and 31 in 71 contests last season. Cogliano’s was the winner.
— Frederik Andersen made 29 saves for his third win in four tilts. He has a 2.40 goals-against average and .914 save percentage this season. Andersen is probably the frontrunner to enter the playoffs as the number one, though Bruce Boudreau’s playoff success will be determined -- again -- by more tough goalie decisions.
— Lubomir Visnovsky played his first game since March 13, and scored a goal. One of the few bright spots for an Islanders team that is in free fall. They are 1-6-1 over their past eight games.
SHARKS 3, FLYERS 2
— San Jose lost two defensemen in this game. Marc-Edouard Vlasic left with 4:15 in the first period because of a lower-body injury. He will not play Sunday and will be re-evaluated when the team returns home. Scott Hannan was cut under his eye at 13:37 of the third period and didn’t play the rest of the game. He’s questionable for Sunday.
— The Sharks outshot the Flyers 44 to 18. The desperate team got goals from Matt Irwin and Joe Pavelski. Pavelski is fourth in the league with 36 goals, though it looks unlikely that he’ll reach 40 goals for the second season in a row. He's gone overlooked amidst the chaos surrounding that team.
— Claude Giroux has scored in four consecutive games, and has points in five in a row. He might be a decent high-end value pick next season because he has only 23 goals. Digging deeper, his 8.7% scoring rate is nearly three percent lower than his career average. His 69 points are ninth in the NHL. Buy just as much as you did this season.
— The Flyers won’t make the postseason, but Steve Mason (42 saves) has firmed his case as the team’s top netminder. In fact he might be reaching the top echelon, too. He has a 2.24 GAA and .927 SV%, fifth in the NHL.
PENGUINS 3, COYOTES 2
— The Penguins got the win, but the bigger news is that they might’ve lost their Norris-caliber defenseman. Kris Letang suffered an upper-body injury with 4:45 in the second period after Shane Doan shoved him to the ice, causing him to fall on his back and knock his head into the boards. He was taken to the hospital, where he will stay for observation. The team expects word on his condition on Sunday.
— Since Feb. 1, the Penguins are second in the NHL in score-adjusted Corsi, with a 54.9% mark entering this game. After all their disappointing playoff runs, the Penguins are sleeper team to go deep this season. It all depends on Marc-Andre Fleury. Thomas Greiss made the start Saturday, stopping 22. Makes sense he was out there against Phoenix.
— It’s not often you see every goal scored in the third period, but that’s what happened in this one. Tye McGinn started it off for the Coyotes, then Pittsburgh scored three in a row.
— Daniel Winnik potted his second as a Penguin. He has six points with his new club, with two goals and three points over his past four games.
— Steve Downie and Sidney Crosby scored about two minutes apart. Lots has been said about Crosby’s "down" season, but the star center does lead the league with 78 points. He also has 25 goals, with a shooting percentage four percent lower than his career rate. Crosby is still the best player in the game, in my view.
— The Coyotes were outshot 46 to 24. Mike Smith made 43 saves and still lost. Even with a .934 SV% in March, he's won three of 11 games. He’s not worth owning the rest of the season for this reason.
RED WINGS 4, LIGHTNING 0
— The Red Wings needed a commanding win like this in the worst way. They now have five wins in March. In the process of shutting out the Lightning, Petr Mrazek (23 saves) may have ignited a goalie controversy in Detroit. Jimmy Howard has an .845 SV% over his past five games. Mrazek is slated to start at the Islanders on Sunday. Another strong outing and he could be in line for the majority for the foreseeable future.
— Detroit got three goals in the second period — starting with Joakim Andersson. Justin Abdelkader followed with his 23rd, while Gustav Nyquist picked up number 24. Ever so slightly, Nyquist’ shooting percentage has cooled to a more realistic 14%. His 18.3% from last year was just not sustainable. He has 21 points this year.
— The Lightning are right up there with the Rangers when it comes to the favorites in the Eastern Conference. Their fate will be decided by Ben Bishop, who stopped only 19 of 22 on Saturday. It remains to be seen how he fares in his first playoff action. He’s a little bit of a wild card in that he’s been pretty average this season (.914 SV%).
MAPLE LEAFS 4, SENATORS 3 (overtime)
— The Senators might end up looking at this game as the reason they miss the playoffs. Sure, they got a point, but they had a 3-1 advantage with about 10 minutes remaining. And they held a 3-2 lead with 1:24 left. They are a point out of a playoff spot with eight games left. So they have time to still get in; it’s just not a good idea to be fumbling wins.
— They can thank Tyler Bozak for only coming away with a point. Bozak had two points (both goals) in March, but he more than doubled his month’s production with a hat trick and an assist. He scored all the Leafs’ goals in the third period and assisted on Eric Brewer’s winner. Nice to see him healthy this year, but the production has been slightly disappointing (22 goals, 45 points).
— Craig Anderson (27 saves) made his first start since March 10 as he’s dealt with bone bruise on his right hand. He looked fined in the first two periods, stopping all 21 shots he faced. Then it all came unhinged.
— Not sure that James Reimer (22 saves) is helping his trade value this season. He’s been pretty awful: 3.23 GAA, .902 SV%.
CANADIENS 3, PANTHERS 2 (overtime)
— Another team fighting for a playoff spot got a valuable point, though it could’ve been one more. The Panthers had a 2-1 lead at 13:11 of the second period. Instead, they are now four points out of a playoff spot with seven games remaining. And they have to leap over the Senators. It’s going to be tough. On the other hand, the Canadiens became the second Eastern Conference team to lock up a playoff spot.
— Max Pacioretty notched the game-winning goal in overtime, on the power play. He has 36 goals and 65 points, which ties a career high. It wouldn't be surprising to see him at least reach his 39 goals from last year.
— Aleksander Barkov is blossoming in front of our eyes in March. He scored twice Saturday, so he now has nine of his 31 points this month, with five of his 14 goals. Seven of his points have come over the last six games. Just 19, Barkov could be in for a nice jump in production next season. He’s a keeper-league gem.
— Carey Price (21 saves) is tied for the league lead in wins with Pekka Rinne (41). As has been the case for several weeks now, he leads the NHL with a 1.88 GAA and .937 SV%. He’d have to collapse over the final six games to lose the Vezina Trophy.
HURRICANES 3, DEVILS 1
— Eric Staal is having one of the worst seasons of his career offensively. After a goal, he has 21 and 48 points on the year, in 69 games. In a full season, Staal has not seen this type of production since his rookie year when he recorded 31 points.
— Just Faulk has emerged as one of the better offensive blueliners. He scored Saturday and now has 15 goals and 47 points on the year. The best part about him, too, is that he doesn’t shy away from firing pucks on net; he has 210 shots.
— Cam Ward (21 saves) is 3-1-1 over his past five games. He has posted a .931 SV% or better in his last three. With a .911 SV% on the year, though, he has been below average. Can’t say I’d recommend him next year, either.
— Patrik Elias scored his first goal since Feb. 20, a span of 13 games without a marker. With 11 goals and 31 points, his production has fallen off a cliff this season. You have to factor in age (38) and the lack of playmakers around him for that. I wouldn’t be drafting him next year as more than a late-round depth forward.
BLUE JACKETS 4, BLUES 2
— I’ve been talking up Sergei Bobrovsky (29 saves) in recent weeks, despite him being on a team that will finish at the bottom of the standings. He has won five games in a row, giving up a total of 11 goals in that span. Bobrovsky has a 2.74 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. No reason not to use him in the fantasy playoffs. Columbus has also won eight in a row on the road.
— Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson each scored and assisted. This performance was especially nice to see from Jenner, who had not tallied a point in the three games since returning from a stress fracture in his back. He has seven goals and 14 points in 24 games. This is the type of production that will suppress his value come next year’s drafts. He could be a nice flier.
— Patrik Berglund got a goal and an assist, his first points in 12 games. He has only 22 points on the year. That 52-point season from 2010-11 seems like a distant memory.
— Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 36th of the season. The crazy thing is, even with 71 points, this could be the tip of the ice berg for what Tarasenko could accomplish in this league. He’s only 23 years old.
— It may be time for the Blues to give Jake Allen some starts. Brian Elliott gave up three goals on 16 shots, and he’s now allowed seven goals over his past two games. Of course, preceding that was a two-game spurt in which he gave up only a goal. Still wouldn’t surprise me to see Allen start Monday at the Canucks.
WILD 4, KINGS 1
— Not too sure what else I can say about the run Devan Dubnyk (31 saves) is on. Despite the Wild’s slipping possession numbers, Dubnyk has turned them into a legitimate threat in the West. He has started 34 games in a row for Minnesota, going 26-6-1 with a 1.70 GAA and .939 SV%. I’m beginning to think he will get some awards votes when it’s all said and done.
— Mikko Koivu scored twice and added an assist. He has four goals and six points over his past five games. Even with that production, he still only has 14 goals and 47 points on the season, so he hasn’t been a high-end performer this season.
— Nino Niederreiter scored twice, so he now has 24 goals this season. He’s another guy whose arrow is pointing up.
— Jonathan Quick (seven saves) was chased after the first period after allowing two goals. This halts an impressive stretch in which he allowed seven goals in four games and didn’t post lower than a .926 save percentage in any of them. Los Angeles is hanging onto third place in Pacific Division with 88 points, one more than Calgary.
AVALANCHE 5, SABRES 3
— I am one of those fantasy owners who took Matt Duchene high in drafts, expecting him to be a high-performing, every-week starter at center. Suffice to say, I have not started him too often. After a goal, two-assist effort, he has 19 goals and 50 points on the season. This after a season in which he tallied 70 points.
— Tyson Barrie is another up-and-coming offensive catalyst from the blue line. He has points in three games in a row, and after a goal Saturday, he has 12 on the year, along with 49 points. There are five defensemen with 50 or more points this year.
— Jarome Iginla recorded a trio of assists. After a slow start, he’s picked it up, now with seven goals and six assists in March. He has 26 goals and 55 points.
STARS 4, CANUCKS 3 (overtime)
— It appeared that the Stars had this one in the bag until Tyler Seguin took a slashing penalty at 18:12 of the third period. It resulted in Radim Vrbata scoring the tying goal, to give him 30 goals for the second time in his career.
— John Klingberg’s 11th goal of the season came in overtime to give the Stars the win. It was his first goal since Feb. 5, though he has still been getting assists on a regular basis. He has 38 points on the year. He’s definitely someone owners should feel comfortable drafting next season.
— In addition to the costly penalty, Seguin scored his 34th of the season and added an assist. His 34 goals are eighth in the league, while his 69 points are 11th. Quite the season even though he missed 10 games.
— Eddie Lack (36 saves) has gone 6-3-1 since March 7. He’s posted save percentages of .923 over the past two months. The Canucks are in good shape with Lack between the pipes.