Sen­a­tors, Pen­guins surge into play­offs on last day

The China Post - - SPORTS -

Jamie Benn’s bril­liance was on full dis­play, the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins and Ottawa Sen­a­tors clinched play­off berths and the Bos­ton Bru­ins kissed their chances good­bye on a thrilling last day of the regular NHL sea­son.

All 30 teams were in ac­tion Satur­day — which was a good thing for the Sen­a­tors, who com­pleted an im­prob­a­ble come­back to reach the play­offs, and for Dal­las Stars’ Benn, who ex­ploded for four points to claim the Art Ross Tro­phy as the league’s top scorer with 87.

Ottawa’s rookie tan­dem of for­ward Mark Stone and goal­tender An­drew Ham­mond helped the Sen­a­tors to claim a spot in the Eastern Con­fer­ence play­offs. Stone scored twice and Ham­mond made 34 saves as Ottawa de­feated the Philadel­phia Fly­ers 3-1.

On Feb. 10, Ottawa was one of the worst teams in the Eastern Con­fer­ence, 14 points back in the play­off race. But since then, the Sen­a­tors have gone 23-4-4 to se­cure their place in the post­sea­son.

Over that stretch, un­drafted rookie Ham­mond has earned the nick­name “Ham­bur­glar” be­cause of his stingy 1.76 goals against av­er­age. He and Stone have both played large roles in the Sen­a­tors’ surge with Ham­mond win­ning 20 of 23 games since be­ing called up from the Amer­i­can Hockey League.

“I have never had a stretch of hockey like this in my life,” the 27-year-old Ham­mond said. “It is some­thing I don’t think any­one can re­ally ex­plain.”

Hands of Stone

Stone scored a pair of goals to tie Cal­gary’s Johnny Gau­dreau for the rookie scor­ing lead, and the Sen­a­tors fin­ished the regular sea­son with a 43-26-13 record.

Ottawa will be on the road against the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens in the play­offs, help­ing cre­ate a dis­tinct Canadian fla­vor to the post­sea­son this year. There are five teams from the great white north open­ing their Stan­ley Cup bids next week.

It was also down to the wire for Sid­ney Crosby’s Pen­guins as they reached the play­offs with a 2-0 win over the Buf­falo Sabres.

Marc-An­dre Fleury stopped 28 shots for his 10th shutout of the year and Bran­don Sut­ter scored both goals for the Pen­guins, who saw a com­fort­able place in the stand­ings at mid­sea­son spi­ral out of con­trol to the point where a loss could have kept them from the play­offs.

An­ders Lind­back made 36 saves for the Sabres, who had al­ready clinched last place in the league with a loss on Fri­day.

Benn col­lected three goals and an as­sist to take the NHL’s scor­ing ti­tle as Dal­las de­feated Nashville 4-1.

Benn’s sec­ond ca­reer hat-trick vaulted him past Crosby (84) and Is­lan­ders cen­ter John Tavares (86) for the Art Ross. He be­comes the first player in fran­chise his­tory to fin­ish as the league’s top point pro­ducer.

“It is bit­ter sweet be­cause we didn’t make the play­offs,” said Benn.

The New York Rangers set sin­gle­sea­son fran­chise records for most wins and points af­ter beat­ing the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals 4-2.

Hen­rik Lundqvist’s 22 saves helped the Rangers (53-22-7) fin­ish the sea­son with 113 points.

That broke the old record of 112 set by the 1993-94 team, which also fin­ished with 53 wins en route to a Stan­ley Cup ti­tle.

The Rangers and Cap­i­tals are headed to the play­offs, and New York will open at home against Pitts­burgh. The Cap­i­tals will face the New York Is­lan­ders in the first round.

Rus­sian su­per­star Alex Ovechkin and Stanislav Galiev scored for the Cap­i­tals.

Bye-bye Bru­ins

In Tampa, Florida, Vic­tor Hed­man had the lone goal of the shootout to send Tampa Bay to a 3-2 win over Bos­ton, elim­i­nat­ing the Bru­ins from play­off con­tention.

The Win­nipeg Jets cel­e­brated their best sea­son since re­lo­cat­ing back to Man­i­toba in 2011 with a 4-1 win over the Cal­gary Flames.

Win­nipeg earned a fran­chise-best 99 points with a 43-26-13 record and will take on the top-seeded Ana­heim Ducks in the first round of the play­offs.

The de­fend­ing Stan­ley Cup cham­pion Los An­ge­les Kings missed the play­offs to en­sure there will be a new win­ner this year.

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