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NHL Wednesday review: Lightning fail to make ground on Leafs

There were just two games in the NHL on Wednesday but with 13 the night before, there were storylines galore as the regular season heads towards its dramatic climax. 

Connor McDavid reached 60 goals in Edmonton Oilers' overtime win against Arizona Coyotes and goalie Linus Ullmark helped keep the Boston Bruins on course to make history, making 40 saves in a 2-1 win over Ottawa Senators. 

Pittsburgh Penguins took advantage of a Florida Panthers slip-up to move back into the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference behind the New York Islanders who also won.  

Seattle Kraken and Winnipeg Jets each secured wins in the Western Conference to prevent Calgary Flames getting closer to them in the Wild Card positions and the Tampa Bay Lightning failed to close the gap on Toronto Maple Leafs in the fight for first round home ice advantage.

Penguins jump back into playoff position

The Penguins (35-26-10) jumped back into the second Wild Card Spot in the Eastern Conference with a massive 5-2 win over the reigning Stanley Cup Champions Colorado Avalanche

The victory ended a run of four games without a win for the Penguins and took them one point ahead of the Panthers, who surprisingly had their seven-game point streak ended with a 6-3 loss to Philadelphia Flyers the night before.

Pittsburgh have made the post-season for a record 16 straight seasons, while the Panthers are -170 to make it for a fourth season in a row. 

Islanders extend Wild Card lead

The Islanders (37-27-8) strengthened their hold on the first Wild Card spot into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference with an impressive 7-2 win over the Leafs. 

The Islanders have won three straight and are 7-2-1 over the last ten games which puts them two points ahead of the Penguins and three above the Panthers who each have a game in hand. 

New York's recent upturn in form is even more impressive considering they are doing it without second-top point producer Mathew Barzal (51 points; 14 goals, 37 assists) who hasn't played since mid-February. 

After making the Eastern Conference Final in both 2020 and 2021, the Islanders missed the playoffs entirely last season but helped by 30 goals from Brock Nelson, 27 from Anders Lee and outstanding goaltending from Ilya Sorokin (.925 save percentage), they are -300 to get back in this season. 

Lightning fail to make ground on Leafs

Toronto's heavy defeat to the Islanders gave their all but certain first round playoff opponent Tampa Bay opportunity to close the gap between the two in the Atlantic Division to one point. 

But the Lightning (42-24-6 and third in the division) suffered a surprise defeat to Montreal Canadiens, meaning the Leafs (42-19-9 and second) remain three points ahead with two games in hand. 

Whoever finishes higher will earn home ice advantage for the first-round encounter, which will be crucial as each team has an identical 25-7-5 record in their own building which is second best in the NHL

The Leafs had home ice advantage at the same stage against the Lightning last season, but lost in Game 7 with Tampa Bay going on to make a third consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance. 

The Lightning are +900 to win the Eastern Conference again and the Leafs are +500, but for Toronto to stand any chance of that, they must first find a way to win a playoff series for the first time since 2004. 

McDavid reaches 60

Connor McDavid scored two goals, including the overtime to winner in a 4-3 Edmonton Oilers win over Arizona Coyotes which took him to 60 goals this season. 

McDavid, -5000 to win the Hart Memorial as the NHL's most valuable player, leads the league for a third consecutive season in points with 138 which is 20 more than the next closest teammate Leon Draisaitl who had four assists against the Coyotes. 

Their form has helped the Oilers win five in a row and pull to within two points of the Los Angeles Kings for second in the Pacific Division.

Ullmark leads Bruins' charge to history

The Bruins' win against the Senators was their fourth in a row and Ullmark's league leading 35th victory of the season. 

Ullmark (35-5-1) has been instrumental in Boston's incredible season to date, and is -600 to win the Vezina Trophy as goalie of the year which would top off a campaign which might end for the Bruins as the best ever. 

Boston (54-11-5) need eight wins from their final 12 games to tie the NHL record of 62, first achieved by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1995/96 season and equalled by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2018/19 season. 

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