CHICAGO – Rookie Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews scored 55 seconds apart midway through the third period, and the Chicago Blackhawks rallied to beat the Nashville Predators 5-3 on Sunday night to become the first team to clinch a NHL playoff spot this season.
Chicago (29-5-4) had fallen behind 3-2 early in the third on a goal by David Legwand, but Saad and Toews connected against Pekka Rinne to put the Blackhawks back ahead.
The Blackhawks defeated the Predators for the second time in two days and improved to 13-0-1 against Central Division teams. Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell also scored for Chicago, and Patrick Kane added an empty-net goal.
Shea Weber and Nick Spaling each had a goal and an assist for the Predators (15-17-8), who are 13th in the Western Conference with 38 points, five behind eighth-place Detroit at the post-season cutoff.
Chicago’s Ray Emery stopped 19 shots, following a 20-save, 1-0 win at Nashville on Saturday. The Blackhawks improved to 4-0 against the Predators.
SABRES 3, DEVILS 2, SO.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)—Nathan Gerbe scored the only goal in the shootout to give Buffalo a victory over New Jersey that extended the Devils’ losing streak to seven games.
Ryan Miller stopped 37 shots through overtime, and all three shootout attempts—including a victory-clinching glove save on Travis Zajac.
Steve Ott extended his goal streak to three games, and Patrick Kaleta also scored for Buffalo, which won its third straight.
Steve Sullivan and Mark Fayne, who forced overtime with a short-handed goal, scored for the Devils, who are 0-3-4 in their past seven. That is their longest winless streak since going 0-4-2-1 from Nov. 10-23, 2001.
The Devils’ loss clinched a playoff spot for the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins.
New Jersey (15-14-10), 1-5-6 in its past 12 road games, is 6-12-7 following a 9-2-3 start. The Devils haven’t won since star forward Ilya Kovalchuk injured a shoulder.
The Sabres (16-17-6) jumped ahead of idle Philadelphia and into 11th place in the East, two points behind the ninth-place Devils.
STARS 5, SHARKS 4, SO
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)—Jamie Benn scored the lone goal in the shootout and Kari Lehtonen stopped all three attempts as Dallas snapped San Jose’s seven-game winning streak with a come-from-behind victory.
Alex Chiasson started the rally from a two-goal deficit in the third period when he scored his second goal of the game, and Loui Erickson tied it for the Stars, who have won two straight following a three-game losing streak. Eric Nystrom also scored, and Lehtonen made 32 saves through overtime for Dallas.
The Stars also erased a 2-0 deficit before falling behind 4-2.
Tommy Wingels, Brent Burns, TJ Galiardi and Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored for the Sharks, who had won the first six games of their seven-game homestand. San Jose failed in its attempt to become the first NHL team to win every game on a homestand of at least seven games, according to STATS.
San Jose’s Antti Niemi made 30 saves.
BLUES 1, RED WINGS 0
DETROIT (AP)—Brian Elliott made 28 saves for his 19th career shutout and Chris Porter scored the game’s only goal in St. Louis’ win over Detroit.
Porter scored his second goal of the season off a goalmouth scramble with 3:32 remaining in the second period. Elliott earned his first shutout of the season.
Jimmy Howard stopped 24 shots for Detroit, which dropped from seventh to eighth in the West.
WILD 3, BLUE JACKETS 0
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—Niklas Backstrom made 24 saves, and newcomer Jason Pominville had a goal and an assist to help Minnesota snap a three-game losing streak by beating Columbus.
Pominville, acquired this week from Buffalo, earned his first points with Minnesota.
Ryan Suter’s wrist shot in traffic started the scoring, and Charlie Coyle benefited from a perfect pass from Mikael Granlund as the Wild netted two power-play goals in the second period.
Backstrom and his staunch defence did the rest until Pominville scored late off a tape-to-tape pass from Zach Parise. Backstrom earned his second shutout of the season and 28th of his NHL career.
CAPITALS 4, LIGHTNING 2
WASHINGTON (AP)—Alex Ovechkin scored twice to make it five goals in two games, and Washington beat Tampa Bay.
Ovechkin scored his 24th and 25th goal—giving him 16 in 14 games—to pull even with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos for the top spot in the NHL.
John Carlson and Joel Ward also scored for the Capitals, who moved two points ahead of the second-place Winnipeg Jets in the Southeast Division with a game in hand.
Michal Neuvirth, making his first start since March 16, had 28 saves, including a pair of point-blank one-on-one stops against Vincent Lecavalier.
Washington has won four straight and eight of 10.
Lecavalier and Alex Killorn scored for the Lightning. Tampa Bay trails Washington by eight points with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
DUCKS 4, KINGS 3, SO
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Corey Perry scored late in the second period and added the winning goal in the shootout, leading Anaheim closer to the Pacific Division title with a victory over Los Angeles.
Matt Beleskey scored the tiebreaking goal on a power play for Anaheim with 15:06 to play, but Kings captain Dustin Brown tied it with 3:45 left in regulation in the third Freeway Faceoff of the season.
The Ducks were outshot 38-22, but the Pacific Division leaders were perfect in the shootout. Bobby Ryan and Saku Koivu scored on Jonathan Bernier before Perry ended Anaheim’s fourth win in six games with a wrist shot.
Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty scored for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who had won five of seven.
PANTHERS 1, SENATORS 0
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP)—Dmitry Kulikov scored a power-play goal 10:46 into the third period to lift Florida over Ottawa and send the Senators to their fourth straight loss.
Kulikov’s wrist shot from top of the left circle beat Craig Anderson as Sergei Gonchar served a holding penalty.
Scott Clemmensen made 40 saves, and Marcel Goc also scored for Florida, which has won four of five.
Ottawa’s Cory Conacher scored his first goal since being acquired from Tampa Bay on Wednesday. Anderson stopped 15 of 17 shots in his return from an ankle injury sustained against the New York Rangers on Feb. 21.