New York Rangers' Brian Boyle, left, checks New Jersey Devils' David Calrkson during the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday, March 19, 2012, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Brandon Dubinsky scored shortly after a fight-filled opening faceoff, and the New York Rangers became the first Eastern Conference team to earn a playoff spot by beating the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Monday night.
Three fights broke out at the outset and that seemed to jump-start the Rangers, who had lost two straight and five of seven as their once commanding lead in the East dwindled to almost nothing.
Defenceman Dan Girardi scored in the first minute of the second period, and Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan added goals for the Rangers, who lead the Pittsburgh Penguins by three points. New York (45-20-7) has 10 games remaining. Pittsburgh has 11 to play, including one against the Rangers.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 20 shots and got the Rangers back on track after home losses to Colorado and Pittsburgh. New York, which has two games remaining on a seven-game homestand, went 3-2-1 against New Jersey in the season series.
CAPITALS 5, RED WINGS 3
DETROIT (AP)—Alexander Ovechkin scored twice and the Washington Capitals held on for a 5-3 win over injury-plagued Detroit.
Mike Knuble had a goal and an assist and Keith Aucoin and Jason Chimera also scored for Washington. Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson each had two assists and Braden Holtby made 30 saves to send Detroit to its fifth straight loss and seventh in eight games.
Kyle Quincey, Todd Bertuzzi and Danny Cleary scored for Detroit. Brendan Smith had two assists and Jimmy Howard stopped 17 shots.
Cleary put one in from a goal-mouth scramble with 7:08 left for his 12th goal to bring the Red Wings to within 4-3.
Chimera added an empty-net, power-play goal in the final minute.
BRUINS 8, MAPLE LEAFS 0
BOSTON (AP)—Benoit Pouliot scored two goals, Brian Rolston had a goal and three assists and the Boston Bruins completed a six-game season sweep of Toronto.
The Bruins' superiority was so complete that after two periods they had as many goals as the Maple Leafs had shots.
Boston has outscored Toronto 36-10 this season. Tim Thomas is 5-0 against the Maple Leafs after being rarely tested in his fifth shutout of the season while facing just 13 shots. He also was in net for a 7-0 rout, at Toronto on Nov. 5. The only one of the six games that the Bruins won by fewer than three goals was a 5-4 victory on March 6 in Toronto.
The Maple Leafs fell into a huge hole early, dropping behind 4-0 when Brad Marchand scored his 24th goal of the season just 12:42 into the game. That's when Toronto goalie James Reimer, who had stopped only five of nine shots, was replaced by Jonas Gustavsson.
SABRES 7, LIGHTNING 3
TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—Marcus Foligno and Jason Pominville each scored twice.
Foligno had two of Buffalo's four second-period goals, helping the Sabres take a 6-2 lead. Pominville scored in the first as the Sabres went up 2-0, and made it 7-2 on a goal 17 seconds into the third.
Drew Stafford, Corey Tropp and Brad Boyes had the other Buffalo goals. The Sabres are 4-1-2 over their last seven games and remain two points behind Washington for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Bruno Gervais, Trevor Smith and Ryan Malone scored for the Lightning, who have lost six of seven. Tampa Bay is playing without eight injured regulars, including goalie Mathieu Garon (groin) and captain Vincent Lecavalier (hand).
WILD 2, CANUCKS 0
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)—Erik Christensen's power-play goal late in the second period gave Josh Harding and the Minnesota Wild a long-sought win over suddenly sputtering Vancouver.
Kyle Brodziak's empty-netter gave the Wild even more to smile about, hearing a rare end-of-the-game roar from their fans after this win over the Northwest Division leader and competitor for the NHL's best record.
The Canucks won't get there if they keep playing like this. They're 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. Starting a four-game road trip the wrong way, they were shut out for the fourth time this season. The first three of those came in the first 10 games, with the last on Oct. 26.
DUCKS 5, SHARKS 3
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP)—Bobby Ryan had a goal and two assists and Jeff Deslauriers won in his first game in more than two months.
Francois Beauchemin, Corey Perry, Nate Guenin and Kyle Palmieri also scored and Nick Bonino had a career-high three assists for the last-place Ducks, who had lost five of six.
Marty Havlat, Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski scored for the Sharks, who missed a golden opportunity to improve their playoff positioning on a night their rivals were idle.
San Jose entered the night in ninth place in the Western Conference but could have moved into third position by taking the Pacific Division lead with a win. Their chances looked good against a struggling Ducks team on the back end of back-to-backs starting a goalie who hadn't played an NHL game since Jan. 10.
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