Four things we learned in the NHL: Caps first to clinch playoff spot

The Hockey Night panel goes over the biggest stories in hockey, including the ongoing saga of NHLers wanting to play in the Olympics and the New York Islanders’ search for a new arena.

• Capitals become first team to clinch a playoff spot
• Oilers welcome new Canadians
• Canadiens win Round 1 vs. Senators

The Washington Capitals became the first team to clinch a playoff spot, the Edmonton Oilers welcomed some new Canadian citizens and the Montreal Canadiens won the first of three important matchups against the Senators.

Here are four things we learned.

Oshie the star in Capitals clinching game

T.J. Oshie was dead set on making sure his team clinched a playoff spot Saturday night.

Oshie had three goals and an assist in a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. You can watch all three goals here.

Oshie snapped a three game pointless streak Saturday and now leads the Capitals with 29 goals. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer and games like this will go a long way towards getting him a big contract from someone.

The Capitals also became the first team to reach 100 points this season. The Columbus Blue Jackets have 98 points while the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins each have 97, meaning more teams should start clinching playoff spots soon.

This loss by the Lightning could prove costly to their playoff chances. More on that below.


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For Maple Leafs, one is better than none

Unlike the before mentioned Lightning, the Toronto Maple Leafs lost in overtime on Saturday, inching them a small step further ahead in the race for the second wild card spot in the East.

The New York Islanders also lost in overtime Saturday, leaving the standings at Toronto (79), New York (78) and Tampa Bay (77) with only the Maple Leafs safely in a playoff spot.

Toronto had plenty of chances to win the game against Chicago too, including a James van Riemsdyk breakaway in overtime. But in a game of inches, it was literal inches that cost the Maple Leafs in the 2-1 loss.

Sportsnet’s Rory Boylen has an explanation for why this goal counted and wasn’t called offside.

This isn’t the first time this season fans have seen the Maple Leafs that close to winning. In fact, they lead the league with 15 overtime or shootout losses.

That may seem like a bummer stat for Maple Leafs fans, until you consider where they would be without those 15 “loser” points. Second last in the conference would not be as fun as this heated playoff race.

After the game, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston wrote that there are things both teams can learn from each other.

Canadiens take Round 1 vs. Senators

The Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators have been battling all season for first place in the Atlantic Division. But that battle is taking on a whole new meaning this week.

The teams are set to play each other three times in the next eight days, starting with Saturday’s 4-3 shootout win by the Canadiens. They will play again Sunday in Montreal, and then for a final time next Saturday, also in Montreal.

The win put the Canadiens two points up on the Senators in the standings, but the back-and-forth play showed this race is far from over.

The teams traded leads three times before Montreal sealed the deal in the shootout. At the end of the game, the shots were 32-31 for the Canadiens. It doesn’t get much closer than that.

The season series is now 2-1 for Ottawa. All three games so far have ended 4-3.

In his latest column, Sportsnet’s Eric Engels wrote that the animosity between the two teams only continues to rise as the playoff race heats up.

Oilers welcome new Canadians with win

The Edmonton Oilers picked up their third straight win Saturday night, 2-0 over the Vancouver Canucks.

And they did it in front of their newest fans.

Earlier in the day, new Canadians officially took the oath of citizenship at Rogers Place and the Oilers welcomed them to their new home with a pre-game ceremony.

If the new Canadians weren’t hockey fans before, we bet they are now after seeing this game. Both teams brought lots of energy and, as the score suggests, it stayed close which only increased the excitement in the building.

Cam Talbot was especially strong for the Oilers, making 33 saves. And some history.

In his column after the game, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector wrote about how important Talbot has been for the Oilers this season.

In the end, the team that has Connor McDavid won, which is starting to become the norm.

McDavid now leads the NHL with 80 points and has 20 points in his last 16 games (seven goals and 13 assists).