Six things we learned in the NHL: Stars are in

Nicklas Backstrom scores the game-winner for the Capitals as they beat the Senators 4-2 and clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference on Tuesday.

The Stars are in, Brian Elliott‘s second straight shutout keeps the Sharks out, the Capitals claim the East and more.

Here’s what we learned on a busy night in the NHL.

Blue Jackets play spoiler
Judging by the pregame poster alone, Tuesday’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets was going to be a battle.

At this point in the season, the Flyers and Blue Jackets are in two very different places: the Flyers have been in a tight race with the Detroit Red Wings for the final wild card spot in the East, while the Blue Jackets are just playing spoiler — which is exactly what they did Tuesday night.

With the Flyers up 2-0 and just 1:04 left on the clock, it looked like they would leave town with a big two points in their pocket.

Nope. Those pesky Blue Jackets got within one goal, and then tied it up with just eight seconds to send it to overtime and, eventually, win in a shootout.

If it's any consolation to the Flyers, the Red Wings also lost Tuesday night in a lopsided match with the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Watch Red Wings-Lightning highlights here.) Philadelphia's single point earned Tuesday has them tied in the standings with Detroit, but lands them in the final wild card spot since they've got one game in hand over the Wings.

Ducks can't clinch
Speaking of spoilers... A win in any fashion would've earned the Anaheim Ducks a playoff berth Tuesday night, but the injury-riddled Montreal Canadiens came through with an unlikely regulation win to spoil it.

Mike Brown scored his first goal as a Hab and then assisted on Lucas Lessio's game-winner (his first goal as a Hab, too) to lead the Canadiens to victory.

Tomas Plekanec had a goal for about a period, but then it was credited to Torrey Mitchell who tipped it in. (Plekanec has now gone 19 straight games without a goal.) His teammate Alex Galchenyuk, meanwhile, kept his hot streak alive.

But while Anaheim's game was sloppy, they did come through with some cool highlights, like this slick move from forward Rickard Rakell:

Corey Perry also had a milestone night, scoring his 30th goal of the season. He's now tied with Paul Kariya for second-most 30-goal seasons for the Ducks.

Senators keep struggling
Tuesday wasn't a great day for the Ottawa Senators.

Earlier in the day, team owner Eugene Melnyk called out the squad for their poor play this season and declared that "no one is safe" as the squad makes big changes this off-season.

The Senators didn't fare any better on the ice, losing to the Washington Capitals 4-2. The Capitals clinched the top spot in the Eastern Conference with the win.

Ottawa let in the game's first goal — an issue they've had all season. According to Sportsnet Stats, the Senators have allowed the first goal in a whopping 48 games this season, which ties them with the Toronto Maple Leafs for most in the NHL.

To make matters worse, they also lost Dion Phaneuf to injury. The defenceman left the game and didn't return, and the team announced he won't skate in Wednesday's matchup against the New York Islanders. No word yet on how long he'll be out.

Canucks can't score
The Senators aren't the only Canadian team struggling right now. The Vancouver Canucks, who recently shut down forwards Brandon Sutter, Radim Vrbata and defenceman Alex Edler, just can't score these days.

The Canucks handed in yet another blank scoresheet, marking the third straight game in which they've been shut out. Ouch.

And, a little context...

The Jets needed just one goal to earn the win, but an empty-netter from Mark Sheifele certainly didn't hurt. Sheifele's goal was his 24th of the season. The 23-year-old continues to have a career campaign with 47 points in 62 games this year, furthering his case for claiming the Jets' top spot. (Sportsnet's Jonathan Willis takes a closer look at Sheifele's strong season.)

Dallas wins, and they're in
The Dallas Stars didn't just open the door to the playoffs Tuesday night — they burst right through it. The Stars made quite the statement with a big 6-2 over the Chicago Blackhawks to earn themselves a playoff berth. They wasted no time getting ahead, scoring four unanswered goals in the first period alone and chasing goaltender Scott Darling out of the crease in the process.

The Stars seem to have the Blackhawks' number lately.

Chicago, meanwhile, is going for a little skid at the worst time. The Blackhawks have lost seven of 10 games in March alone, with four of those losses coming at the hands of division rivals.

Nugent-Hopkins leaves game
The Arizona Coyotes also played spoiler in their own special way Tuesday night, as a loss in the desert would've boded well for both the Sharks' and Ducks' clinching scenarios. Instead, they defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 — despite rookie Connor McDavid's two-point effort.

Unfortunately for the Oilers, they may have lost more than the game, as forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins left the game and didn't return after taking this hit to the head from Connor Murphy:

The team announced soon after that he would not return.