6 things we learned: Taylor Hall’s playoff drought is over

Pavel Zacha and Miles Wood scored for the Devils to beat the Maple Leaf 2-1 and clinch a spot in the playoffs.

Taylor Hall punched his ticket to the post-season, the Panthers survived another day, and a city bid farewell to a couple of legends.

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

Hall heading to the playoffs
Eight seasons, 529 games, and one emotional trade later, Taylor Hall is heading to the post-season for the first time in his NHL career.

The New Jersey Devils made it official at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs, winning 2-1 to clinch the franchise’s 23rd playoff berth and first since 2012. The fact that it was against the Leafs means Lou Lamoriello has been present for every single one of ‘em — how cool is that?

Lou’s old club has been on a real tear lately, led by Hall and his Hart Trophy-worthy campaign. While he didn’t get on the score sheet Thursday, Hall entered the game on a nine-game point streak with 17 points (8G, 9A) during that time. In 76 games with the Devils this season, the 26-year-old has a career-high 39 goals and 54 assists, and his 93 points is a whopping 42 more than the Devils’ second-best scorer, Nico Hischier (19-32—51).

“Not to rehash it, but just how I got traded here and all we went through last year, and the way that we’ve been able to kind of overcome everything this season and really play our best hockey down the stretch here … I’m really proud to be part of this group, and excited for what we can do in the future,” Hall told reporters after the game.

Hall’s playoff drought is the NHL’s fourth-longest among active NHLers. Jeff Skinner’s remains the longest (577) while Zach Bogosian (552 games) will take over second place now that Evander Kane (573) will also finally get his first taste of playoff hockey after helping the San Jose Sharks clinch last week.

And Nylander makes six
The Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t exactly struggled in the goal-scoring department lately, sitting third in the league in total goals scored this season with 266 (tied with the Penguins).

Goals can come from just about anyone on any given night — and this week, it’s been William Nylander. The Swedish centreman followed up Monday’s two-goal, three-point night with another goal Thursday against the Devils, bringing him to 20 on the season.

That means the Maple Leafs now have six players with 20 or more goals this season — that’s the most in the league — with Nylander joining James van Riemsdyk, Auston Matthews, Nazem Kadri, Patrick Marleau and Mitch Marner. His stat line (20-40-60) is almost identical to that of last season, when he tallied 22 goals and 39 assists as a rookie.

Blue Jackets clinch
The Columbus Blue Jackets lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime, but that one point was all they needed to punch their ticket to the post-season.

It’s the franchise’s fourth-ever playoff berth, and first time getting into the post-season in back-to-back years.

Fitting, too, that the clinching game would come against their biggest playoff foes. The Blue Jackets have faced (and lost to) the Penguins in the first round in their past two playoff appearances, and as things stand right now, they’re on a collision course for another Round 1 meeting next week.

Panthers keep playoff hopes alive
The Florida Panthers aren’t going down without a fight. They edged the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night, squeaked by with a controversial win over the Nashville Predators a day later, and then made it three in a row with a crucial victory against the Boston Bruins on Thursday.

In doing so, the Panthers also played spoiler for the Philadelphia Flyers. Like many hockey fans, the Flyers were also likely glued to the game following their own important 4-3 win over the Hurricanes. Had Florida lost to Boston, Philadelphia would’ve clinched the final spot in the East.

As it stands now, the Flyers sit in the second wild-card spot with 96 points and one game remaining. They’ll need at least one point against the lottery-bound New York Rangers this Saturday to clinch, while the Panthers (92 points) will need to win both of their final two games (in addition to the Flyers losing in regulation, of course) to steal the spot away. They’ve got the last-place Buffalo Sabres on Saturday followed by the Bruins again on Sunday.

Bonus: While the most important part of Thursday’s Panthers-Bruins game was the outcome, it was an especially significant game for goaltender Roberto Luongo, who joined Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy as just the third netminder to play 1,000 career NHL games.

Predators on top
This is kind of cool: While the Panthers (or, um, maybe the refs) spoiled the Predators’ party Tuesday night with that crazy goalie-interference non-goal that kept Nashville from locking in the Central Division and Western Conference’s top seed, they settled the score with their old foes on Thursday.

The Bruins’ regulation loss means the Predators officially claim the Presidents’ Trophy as the top team in the league (115 points) after clinching the Western Conference and Central Division by defeating the Washington Capitals Thursday. It’s their first time earning the honour — and probably not their last.

Smashville now has home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. This’ll be fun.

This will also be fun:

Vancouver says farewell to its favourite duo
Thursday was an emotional night in Vancouver, as the city said goodbye to two of the best to ever represent it at the rink. Just a few days after announcing that this season would in fact be their last, Daniel and Henrik Sedin suited up for the final home game of their illustrious careers.

The pair connected on a gorgeous goal to start the second period — No. 22 on the season for Daniel, assisted by Henrik just 33 seconds into the frame, because hockey always seems to write the best scripts.

The game featured more standing ovations for the twins than we could count, with fans on their feet for just about every shift, culminating in a magical overtime moment as Daniel scored the winner at 2:33 into extra time, assisted by his brother. The celebration that followed was pretty incredible.

The Sedins will suit up for the final game of their careers this Saturday in Edmonton. Next stop: Hall of Fame.

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