The battle for the second Wild Card spot has been tight, but the New Jersey Devils just gave themselves a bit of breathing room. The Panthers suffered a 4-0 loss to Columbus on Thursday and New Jersey took advantage of that with a 4-3 overtime victory against Pittsburgh Friday night.
The Devils now have 84 points in 74 contests while their final real competitor for the playoff spot, Florida, stands at 81 points in 72 games. Certainly the Panthers’ two fewer games means that New Jersey is still in a vulnerable position, but things now look significantly better for the Devils.
As is often the case, Taylor Hall played a key role in the Devils’ victory. He had a three-point night, giving him 33 goals and 81 points in 69 games. He’s now set a new career-high in points, topping the 80-point campaign he had back in 2013-14. He’s also in a three-way tie for 11th place in the scoring race, though in terms of points-per-game among players that have participated in at least five contests, Hall ranks seventh in the league.
The Panthers and Devils don’t have any games scheduled against each other for the rest of the season. They will both play today though as the Devils will host Tampa Bay while the Panthers host Arizona.
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MONTREAL 3 BUFFLO 0
Antti Niemi made 35 saves to earn the shutout. While he had a disastrous start to the season, he’s posted a 2.25 GAA and .936 save percentage in 17 contests since joining Montreal.
Jack Eichel managed a team-high five shots against Niemi. He has 22 goals on 216 shots, which translates to a 10.2% success rate.
Artturi Lehkonen scored the first and therefore game-winning goal. It was his 10th goal and 18th point in 59 games.
Brendan Gallagher also found the back of the net for Montreal. That gives him 27 goals and 46 points in 75 games.
Linus Ullmark turned aside 21 of 22 Canadiens shots. He has a 1-2-0 record, 2.01 GAA, and .938 save percentage in four contests.
NEW JERSEY 4 PITTSBURGH 3 (OT)
Taylor Hall scored a goal and registered two assists for the Devils. He’s up to 33 goals and 81 points in 69 games.
Nico Hischier found the back of the net and recorded an assist. The Devils rookie has 17 goals and 48 points in 74 contests.
Keith Kinkaid turned aside 40 of 43 Penguins shots. He improved to 20-10-2 with a 2.91 GAA and .909 save percentage in 34 games.
Sidney Crosby scored a goal and recorded an assist. The Penguins star forward has 25 goals and 81 points in 75 games.
Matt Murray kicked out 30 of 34 shots last night. He has a 23-14-3 record, 2.86 GAA, and .908 save percentage in 43 games.
ST. LOUIS 4 VANCOUVER 1
Sam Gagner accounted for the Canucks’ lone goal. It was his eighth marker and 29th point in 67 games.
Patrik Berglund scored two goals, including the game-winner. That gives him 12 goals and 19 points in 49 games.
Vladimir Tarasenko also found the back of the net for St. Louis. He has 28 goals and 59 points in 72 games.
Anders Nilsson surrendered four goals on 25 shots. He’s lost his last five starts, putting his last victory back on Feb. 17.
Jake Allen saved 19 of 20 Canucks shots. He has a 25-21-2 record, 2.72 GAA, and .906 save percentage in 52 games.
WINNIPEG 3 ANAHEIM 2 (OT)
Mark Scheifele led the Jets with a goal and two assists. He has 22 goals and 56 points in 53 games this season.
Blake Wheeler assisted on two of Winnipeg’s three goals. That gives him 19 goals and 83 points in 74 contests.
Their efforts were the difference in what was otherwise a largely strong night for John Gibson. The Ducks goalie stopped 39 of 42 shots. He has a 29-17-7 record, 2.42 GAA, and .927 save percentage in 56 starts.
Things were far less busy at the other end of the ice as Connor Hellebuyck only needed to turn aside 16 of 18 shots. He’s 38-11-9 with a 2.34 GAA and .924 save percentage in 61 games.
Nick Ritchie found the back of the net for Anaheim. He has eight goals and 25 points in 69 games.
BOSTON 3 DALLAS 2
Jamie Benn found the back of the net at 19:22 of the second period. At the time it gave the Stars a 2-0 lead, but the Bruins charged back in the third period.
Brad Marchand scored a goal and registered two assists. He’s up to 32 goals and 78 points in 59 games.
David Pastrnak netted the game-winning goal and contributed an assist. That gives him 29 goals and 72 points in 73 games.
Tuukka Rask saved 40 of 42 Stars shots. He has a 31-11-5 record, 2.34 GAA, and .917 save percentage in 48 games.
Kari Lehtonen kicked out 33 of 36 shots on Friday. He has a 12-12-3 record, 2.54 GAA, and .912 save percentage in 31 contests.