NHL Playoff Race: Blue Jackets get big win, Panthers miss big chance

Adam Gretz
NBC Sports

It was a big night in the Eastern Conference playoff race with a couple of the teams fighting for a Wild Card spot all in action.

Let’s take a look at how things managed to shake out.

Columbus keeps winning when it needs to: The Blue Jackets extended their current winning streak to five games with a 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It was a bit of a costly win, however, as defenseman Seth Jones did not play in the third period due to an upper body injury. Jones was initially injured over the weekend when he was hit by Colorado’s Carl Soderberg while celebrating a goal. Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said on Monday after the win that Jones aggravated something during the game and was held out of the third period for precautionary reasons.

The win helps Columbus get a little bit of cushion in the Wild Card race and also brings them two points closer to the Philadelphia Flyers for the third spot in the Metropolitan Division due to their loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Panthers might regret this one: If Florida ends up missing the playoffs by two points this is probably going to be a night that look back on with some frustration. Playing at home, against one of the worst teams in the league, the Panthers were on the wrong end of a 5-3 decision against the Ottawa Senators.

The Panthers trailed by two goals after the first period and rallied to tie the game, only to lose when Matt Duchene scored the eventual game-winner with just three minutes to play in regulation.

The loss leaves them three points out of a wild card spot, trailing the New Jersey Devils. The Panthers still have two games in hand, which helps, but they still have to win those games. Tonight was one of those games in hand on New Jersey and they missed an opportunity to take advantage of it.

The Hurricanes are done: Truthfully they were probably already done before this, but losing to the New York Rangers, 6-3, on Monday night has to be it for them. It was another tough night for Scott Darling as his nightmare season continued. He stopped only  17 of the 21 shots he faced, with the fourth goal, a game-winner to Jimmy Vesey, coming from a bad angle late in the third period.

Right now the final Wild Card team in the East is on pace for 93 points. For Carolina to top that it would need 23 points in its final 13 games. That would be an 11-1-1 run the rest of the way. They have only won three of their past 12 games. It is over.


Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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