5 things we learned in the NHL: Hurricanes making East interesting

The playoff races in the Eastern Conference continued to heat up with the streaking Carolina Hurricanes making a late push for the second wild card.

Here are five things we learned in the NHL on Thursday night.

Trending up

The Toronto Maple Leafs are trending up with six games remaining in the regular season.

Mitch Marner set the franchise record for most assists by a rookie in a season with his 41st on James van Riemsdyk‘s opening goal as Toronto beat the Nashville Predators 3-1.

The victory moves the Leafs two points behind Ottawa for second place in the Atlantic Division. The Senators lost 5-1 to the Minnesota Wild and also have six games remaining in their schedule.

Toronto improved to 7-2-1 in its last 10 games and have received contributions from everyone, including goaltender Frederik Andersen, who returned from injury against Nashville.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston wrote about how the Maple Leafs clearly believe they’re a playoff team.


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They’re back

The Montreal Canadiens booked their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 6-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.

Paul Byron struck twice and Brendan Gallagher had a goal and three assists as the Canadiens beat Florida for the first time in regulation in seven matchups.

The playoffs are a welcome sight for Habs fans after a disastrous 2015-16 season which saw them miss the post-season. But a healthy Carey Price and a coaching change in mid-February look to have the Canadiens on track with five games remaining in the regular season.

The last time Montreal made the playoffs, it fell in six games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.

Sportsnet’s Eric Engels wrote about how much has changed in the past year for the Canadiens.

Big win

It’s hard to find a hotter team in the NHL right now than the Carolina Hurricanes.

Noah Hanifin scored the overtime winner as the Hurricanes edged the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 to inch closer to an Eastern Conference wild-card spot.

Not only did the victory put Carolina to within four points of the Boston Bruins, who beat Dallas 2-0 to maintain the second wild card in the East, but it also extended its point streak to 13 games.

Meanwhile, Brad Marchand opened the scoring for Boston for his 38th goal of the season. He’s the first Bruins player to score 38 or more goals in a season since Glen Murray’s 44 in 2002-03.

On the flip side…

From one team on the rise to another on the decline.

The New York Islanders are playing themselves out of a playoff spot after a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Islanders entered the day four points behind Boston but allowed five goals in the first period, which crippled their chances of a comeback. It didn’t help that starting goaltender Thomas Greiss allowed three goals on eight shots before giving way to Jaroslav Halak.

New York has now lost three in a row and are six points back of the second wild card with six games remaining.

Also featured in the Islanders-Flyers matchup was a pair of Gordie Howe hat tricks from Dale Weise and Wayne Simmonds. Sportsnet’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman examines the story further here.

Milestone for Zetterberg

The Detroit Red Wings had their run of 25-straight playoff appearances ended earlier this week but it didn’t take long for another milestone to replace it.

Longtime Red Wing Henrik Zetterberg had an assist on Danny DeKeyser’s second period goal for his 48th helper of the season and 900th career point.

The 36-year-old, who has spent his entire 14-year NHL career with Detroit, is just five games away from 1,000 for his career.

Not bad for a seventh round pick in 1999.

Article source: http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/5-things-learned-nhl-hurricanes-making-east-interesting/

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