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Final playoff spots can be locked up tonight

Auston Matthews

Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (34) celebrates with teammates after scoring a power play goal against the New York Islanders during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)


It’s not a must-win game for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but a loss to Tampa Bay tonight at Air Canada Centre would, at the very least, make things slightly uncomfortable.

A win, on the other hand, and the Leafs will book their first playoff appearance since 2013.

“It’s time to close it out,” veteran forward Brian Boyle told reporters this morning. “It’s time to punch our ticket.”

But back to what happens if they lose. If it’s in regulation, the Bolts would move to within three points of the Leafs for the East’s second wild-card spot, with two games remaining for each team. Toronto hosts Pittsburgh Saturday and Columbus Sunday. The Lightning play in Montreal tomorrow and host Buffalo Sunday.

“We’re not out of it yet,” Bolts d-man Victor Hedman said Tuesday. “It’s obviously a tough hill to climb, and we need a lot of things to go our way.”

The New York Islanders are also still alive. Like the Lightning, they need to go 3-0-0 in their final three games to have any chance of qualifying. The Isles play in Carolina tonight.

And, finally, the Ottawa Senators can clinch a playoff spot tonight. All the Sens need is a point in Boston.