A no-lose situation: Caps clinch division
The Capitals clinched their second consecutive Southeast Division title despite losing, 5-4, to the Buffalo Sabres on Jason Pominville's breakaway goal 1:51 into overtime last night in Washington.
The point awarded for getting to overtime was enough to give the Capitals a 9-point cushion ahead of Carolina, which has four games left.
Derek Roy, Drew Stafford, Clarke MacArthur and Maxim Afinogenov also scored for Buffalo, which is hanging onto faint hopes of earning a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
Sergei Fedorov scored twice for Washington, Alex Ovechkin raised his NHL-leading goal total to 55, and Alexander Semin netted his 30th.
Unlike last season - when they were at the bottom of the standings in late November and weren't assured of the title until winning their last game - the Capitals built a big early lead and clinched with four games to spare.
Blackhawks 3, Predators 1 - Nikolai Khabibulin made 25 saves, and Jonathan Toews's scored his team-leading 32d goal as host Chicago beat Nashville to clinch its first playoff berth in seven years.
Samuel Pahlsson scored in the first period and Martin Havlat added an empty-net goal for the Blackhawks, who qualified for the postseason for only the second time in 11 seasons.
Devils 5, Lightning 4 - Martin Brodeur made seven saves in a rare relief role, and Zach Parise scored in overtime as host New Jersey beat Tampa Bay to snap a six-game losing streak.
Jamie Langenbrunner scored twice, Brendan Shanahan connected on a penalty shot, and Jay Pandolfo also tallied for the Devils, who swept the four-game season series from the Lightning.
Flyers 8, Maple Leafs 5 - Jeff Carter scored three goals and Danny Briere had a goal and three assists as host Philadelphia passed Carolina for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
Luke Schenn, Boyd Devereaux and Mikhail Grabovski scored for the Leafs in the last four minutes of the second period to cut a 6-0 deficit in half.
Thrashers 3, Panthers 1 - Rich Peverley scored his second goal of the game in the third period to break a tie and lift visiting Atlanta to its fourth straight win.
Florida missed a chance to tie the eighth-place Rangers in the Eastern playoff race. The Panthers haven't qualified for the postseason since 2000.
Wild 4, Flames 0 - Host Minnesota scored three goals on 10 shots in the first period as the Wild shut out Calgary to keep their playoff chances alive.
Niklas Backstrom made 27 saves for his team-record eighth shutout of the season, the second most in the NHL.