|Breaking a three-game skid left Nicklas Backstrom (left) and the Capitals thrilled. (Nick Wass/Associated Press)|
Matt Bradley broke a third-period tie with his first goal in 2 1/2 months and the Capitals snapped a three-game losing streak, delivering a blow to the Atlanta Thrashers’ playoff hopes with a 2-1 victory last night in Washington.
Bradley gathered the puck in the right corner and skated in to put a backhander between Ondrej Pavelec’s legs with 10:14 remaining. It was Bradley’s ninth goal of the season and first since Jan. 19.
In a possible preview of a first-round Eastern Conference playoff series, the Capitals put aside a week of spotty play and moved closer to clinching the Presidents’ Trophy for best overall record. Nicklas Backstrom scored his 30th goal, Alex Ovechkin had an assist for his 102d point, and Semyon Varlamov improved his bid to be the No. 1 goalie for the postseason by making 19 saves.
The Thrashers started the day in ninth place in the East with five games to play and two points behind the Flyers, Bruins, and Canadiens in a logjammed battle for the final playoff spots. Atlanta didn’t lose ground: Philadelphia and the Bruins lost, and Montreal had the night off.
The Thrashers’ only goal came from Tim Stapleton, who was playing his fourth game with the team after getting called up from the minors.
Islanders 6, Flyers 4 — Blake Comeau scored twice in a three-goal first period, and host New York snapped a 15-game losing streak to Philadelphia.
Comeau gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead 2:11 in and doubled the advantage 5:06 later — both off assists from rookie John Tavares. Frans Nielsen made it a three-goal edge 28 seconds after Comeau’s second on New York’s eighth shot on goalie Brian Boucher.
New York — which tied its highest scoring output this season — kept alive minuscule playoff possibilities, but is still eight points below the postseason cutoff with five games left.
The Islanders, 0-12-3 in the previous 15 against the Flyers, took solace in finally beating their Atlantic Division rivals, who started the streak March 1, 2008.
Maple Leafs 4, Sabres 2 — Luke Schenn’s long shot ricocheted high over goalie Ryan Miller to help host Toronto beat Buffalo.
It was the first time all season Toronto managed to beat Miller and the Sabres despite outshooting them in all six meetings. This one looked to be following a familiar script until Schenn’s shot went off the stick of Buffalo’s Raffi Torres and into the top of the goal at 8:30 of the third period.
Viktor Stalberg, Garnet Exelby, and Fredrik Sjostrom also scored for the Maple Leafs. Derek Roy and Steve Montador scored for Buffalo.
Kings 8, Canucks 3 — Captain Dustin Brown had three goals and an assist, and host Los Angeles roared to an early five-goal lead while inching closer to its first playoff berth since 2002 with a rout of Vancouver.
Red Wings 3, Blue Jackets 2 — Tomas Holmstrom and Pavel Datsyuk each had a goal and an assist as host Detroit held off Columbus.
Predators 3, Blues 2 — Steve Sullivan scored the go-ahead goal at 6:05 of the third period as host Nashville snapped St. Louis’s three-game winning streak and moved within a point of clinching a playoff berth.
Senators 4, Hurricanes 3 — Alex Kovalev and Jason Spezza scored in a shootout to cap Ottawa’s victory over visiting Carolina that ensured the Senators’ return to the Stanley Cup playoffs.