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NHL Tuesday review: Panthers boost Wild Card bid

The Florida Panthers won a fifth game in a row to move into a Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference, while the Pittsburgh Penguins lost ground in their bid to make the playoffs for a record 17th consecutive time.

In the Western Conference the Calgary Flames suffered a damaging defeat in their attempts to catch Winnipeg Jets for a playoff position, and the Edmonton Oilers kept pace with Vegas Golden Knights in the battle for the Pacific Division title. 

On a busy night, reigning Stanley Cup champions Colorado Avalanche booked their playoff ticket and moved to the top of the Central Division, while the Carolina Hurricanes have managed to put themselves in a strong position to claim the Metropolitan.

Panthers roar into Wild Card position

The Panthers (40-31-7) beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 to record a fourth straight victory and move into a tie with the New York Islanders for the first Wild Card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. 

Florida’s jump up the standings dislodged the Pittsburgh Penguins (38-30-10) from a Wild Card position as they were soundly beaten 5-1 by the playoff-bound New Jersey Devils. 

After looking like they may make a push for one of the Wild Card spots with a run of good form a week ago, Buffalo (37-32-7) now finds themselves six points behind the Panthers and Islanders, but they do have two games in hand over the pair.

Damaging defeat for Flames

After winning four in a row to put pressure on Winnipeg (41-31-3) for the second Wild Card spot into the playoffs from the Western Conference, the Calgary Flames (36-27-15) dropped a game they would have fully expected to win, going down 4-3 against the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Chicago had lost eight in a row previously and it means, with four games remaining, the Flames are two points behind the Jets, who have a game in hand. 

The pair meet in a huge game at Winnipeg’s Canada Life Centre on Thursday, in what is now a pretty much must-win for Calgary who have a 17-11-11 road record, while the Jets are 24-12-2 at home. 

The Nashville Predators (39-30-8) are three points back off the Jets, each with five games remaining. 

The first Wild Card holder from the West, Seattle Kraken, beat Vancouver Canucks 5-2 and are five points ahead of the Flames with two games in hand. They are well set to make their first playoff appearance after entering the NHL last season. 

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Five big questions that need answering ahead of the NHL Playoffs

Oilers keep pace in Pacific

Edmonton (45-23-9) defeated Pacific Division rivals Los Angeles Kings 3-1 to move one point ahead of them and get within three points of first-place Vegas.

Leon Draisaitl registered three points for the Oilers to take his season tally to 120, which still trails teammate Connor McDavid by 20 points. 

McDavid leads the league in points (140), goals, (62) and assists (84) and he is set to be named the Hart Memorial Trophy winner as the NHL’s MVP. 

The Oilers have won five in a row and nine of the last their last 10 and are +275 to win the Pacific. 

Champions clinch playoff place

Colorado (45-24-6) clinched their place in the playoffs with a 4-3 overtime win over San Jose Sharks and moved to the top of the Central Division. 

The Avalanche are level on points (98) with Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars but have a game in hand over both. 

Colorado, who are -125 to finish first in Central, are 8-2-0 over their last 10 games and have hit form at just the right time, making them +550 to defend the Stanley Cup which they won against Tampa Bay Lightning in last season’s Final. 

Hurricanes stay top of Metro

The Hurricanes (50-18-9) beat Ottawa Senators to record a third straight victory, which keeps them on course to win the Metropolitan Division over New Jersey (49-21-8), who beat the Penguins. 

Carolina and New Jersey are second and third only to the history-making Boston Bruins (60-12-5) this season, which makes the Metro +240 to deliver a Stanley Cup Champion. 

With a game in hand over the Devils, the Hurricanes are -1600 to hold on to the divisional lead and they are +750 to win the Stanley Cup. 

The Devils are +700 to pip them to the divisional title and +900 to end the season as Stanley Cup champions.

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