SAN Jose clinched a place in the NHL playoffs by beating Los Angeles 5-2, returning to the postseason after its run of 10 straight appearances ended last year.
The Sharks became the sixth team in the Western Conference to book a playoff berth, but in the East the only team to have secured its spot is Washington, which beat Columbus to clinch the Presidents’ Trophy for the team with the best record in the regular season.
Elsewhere, Colorado kept up its Western Conference playoff bid by edging Nashville and closing within three points of eighth-placed Minnesota, and Calgary all but ended Arizona’s postseason ambitions.
San Jose’s Joe Thornton scored a tiebreaking, power-play goal early in the third period, Justin Braun added two goals and Joe Pavelski and Melker Karlsson also scored for the Sharks.
Vincent Lecavalier scored twice for the first-place Kings, who had their lead in the Pacific Division cut to one point over second-place Anaheim. The Ducks are four points ahead of the third-place Sharks and have a game in hand over both of their California rivals.
Washington fourth-liner Tom Wilson atoned for two penalties by scoring the winning goal early in the third period as the Capitals beat Columbus 4-1.
The Capitals needed only a point to clinch the NHL’s best record this season and wrapped up home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs with seven games left. Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie also scored and Nicklas Backstrom added an empty-netter for Washington, which has an NHL-leading 113 points.
Cam Atkinson scored for the Blue Jackets.
Colorado used a fast start and hung on to win 4-3 at Nashville. Blake Comeau had a goal and an assist while Gabriel Landeskog and Jack Skille also scored in the first, prompting the Predators to change goaltender, hooking Pekka Rinne after he gave up the three goals from just 10 shots. Shawn Matthias’s goal in the third wound up the game-winner.
Nashville had recorded at least a point in 10 straight home games, and would have clinched a playoff berth with a regulation victory.
Calgary’s Sam Bennett scored twice while Sean Monahan had a goal and two assists as the Flames beat Arizona 5-2.
T.J. Brodie and Joe Colborne also scored for Calgary, which had lost its previous four meetings with the Coyotes this season. Anthony Duclair scored both goals for Arizona.
Anaheim maintained the pressure on Los Angeles for top spot in the Pacific Division by winning 2-1 at Edmonton, with Corey Perry scoring his 31st goal of the season.
Detroit kept up its push for a 25th successive playoff berth by edging Buffalo 3-2, staying tied with Philadelphia for the second wild-card spot in the East, though the Flyers have a game in hand. Philadelphia kept its nose in front in that race by winning 3-2 in overtime against Winnipeg, with Claude Giroux scoring the crucial overtime winner.
Tampa Bay moved into a tie with Florida for top spot in the Pacific Division – although the Lightning has played one more game – by downing Toronto 3-0.