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NHL Three Stars: Vanek ends Penguins streak; four teams clinch playoff spots

Greg Wyshynski
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No. 1 Star: Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres

Vanek scored two goals and added an assist as the Sabres snapped the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 7-game winning streak with a 4-2 victory. Ryan Miller made 40 saves.

No. 2 Star: Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild

The Wild goalie stopped 22 Los Angeles Kings shots in Minnesota’s 2-1 victory. Goals by Charlie Coyle and Cal Clutterbuck stood up; Backstrom, meanwhile, stood on his head when he needed to.

No. 3 Star: Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks

The Sharks star converted a Dallas Stars turnover into the game-winning goal just 30 seconds after Joe Pavelski tied the game. The Sharks handed the Stars a critical loss, 3-2. San Jose, meanwhile, clinched a playoff spot.

Honorable mention: The Washington Capitals captured the Southeast Division title with a 5-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Alex Ovechkin scored his 31st goal and added an assist. John Erskine was a plus-3 and saved two goals. … Steve Sullivan had a goal and an assist while Marty Brodeur made 19 saves in the New Jersey Devils3-2 win over struggling Montreal. … Chris Kunitz scored his 22nd in the loss for Pittsburgh. … Jeff Carter scored his 26th in the loss for the Kings. … Riley Nash and Jeff Skinner scored in the shootout as the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the New York Islanders, 4-3. John Tavares scored his 27th in defeat. The Islanders clinched a playoff spot. … Steve Mason made 39 saves while Oliver Lauridsen scored his first (a Chara own-goal basically) and was a plus-3 in the Philadelphia Flyers’ 5-2 win over the Boston Bruins. … Jacob Markstrom made 36 saves while Marcel Goc and Drew Shore scored in the third period to give the Florida Panthers a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers. … Andy McDonald and Chris Stewart had a goal and an assist in the St. Louis Blues’ 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche. Brian Elliott got the win. … Austin Watson’s first NHL goal broke a 2-2 tie in the third period before Matt Halischuk added a pivotal insurance goal in the Nashville Predators4-3 win over the Calgary Flames. Roman Cervenka had two goals in the loss.

Did you know? In his 633rd consecutive game, a team Jay Bouwmeester was playing for finally qualified for the postseason.

Dishonorable mention: Douglas Murray was a minus-3. … Zdeno Chara was a minus-2. … Anton Khudobin gave up three goals on 17 shots before he was pulled. … Finally, Dustin Brown’s elbow took out Jason Pominville.

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