Capitals clinch playoff spot; Sharks on track

The Washington Capitals have become the first NHL team to clinch a spot in the 2016 Stanley Cup after a 2-1 overtime winner over the Carolina Hurricanes.

It’s the eighth time in the past nine seasons that the Capitals have qualified for the playoffs and the quickest they have secured it since 2009-10.

The San Jose Sharks rediscovered their touch on home ice to knock the Boston Bruins off the top of the Atlantic division on Tuesday night.

A third period Joonas Donskoi marker was enough to give the Sharks a 3-2 win, just three days after defeating the League-leading Capitals.

“These are good tests for us,” said center Joe Thornton. “It’s a good measuring stick for us, and we like the way we’re playing. We like our home game again too. Everything’s starting to come together nicely.”

Pittsburgh closed to within three points of third place in the Metropolitan division with a 2-1 shootout win over rivals the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Centre.

“It’s big [to get two points], especially against that team,” said Kris Letan, who scored the only goal in the shootout. “I think we could’ve scored a lot more goals in that game.”

Tampa Bay lost ground in the race for the Atlantic division after a surprise 4-1 loss to bottom-of-the-league Toronto, where Ben Smith was among the scorers but the result was flattered a little by a pair of late empty-net goals.

Florida have been the main beneficiaries of Tampa’s defeat. Vincent Trocheck had a goal and an assist as the Panthers powered to a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.

Elsewhere, Pacific leaders Los Angeles got the better of Western pace-setters Dallas at American Airlines Centre, where Anze Kopitar starred to hand the Kings a 5-2 win – their ninth success in their last 12 outings.

Ottawa piled on the drama at Canadian Tire Centre, tying the game with 7.1 seconds left in the third before Erik Karlsson grabbed the overtime winner with 30 seconds remaining on the clock to hand the Senators a 3-2 win over the luckless Minnesota Wild.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, put themselves in wild-card contention with a 4-3 home win over the Detroit Red Wings.

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