NEW YORK -- Rick Nash scored the winning goal with 1:42 left, on New York's third shot of the third period, and the Rangers clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 2-1 victory over the NHL-worst Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
New York secured second place in the Metropolitan Division when the Philadelphia Flyers lost at Tampa Bay later Thursday. The Rangers will face either the Flyers or Columbus in the playoffs.
The Rangers struggled throughout against the lowly Sabres and goalie Matt Hackett, who played in just his seventh NHL game of the season.
LIGHTNING 4, FLYERS 2
Tyler Johnson had the other goal for Tampa Bay, which moved within a point of Montreal for second place in the Atlantic Division.
ISLANDERS 2, CANADIENS 0
MONTREAL -- Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves for his fourth shutout this season, and Ryan Strome and Brock Nelson scored power-play goals late in the second period as the New York Islanders topped the Montreal Canadiens.
The loss, combined with Tampa Bay's 4-2 win over Philadelphia, hurt the Canadiens' chances of starting the playoffs on home ice. Montreal is second in the Atlantic Division with 98 points and one game left to play, while the Lightning have 97 points with two games remaining.
The Islanders posted their first regulation win in four games, but improved to 7-2-2 in their last 11 games.
The Canadiens, coming off a 3-2 overtime loss in Chicago on Wednesday, were outshot 30-19.
CAPITALS 5, HURRICANES 2
All three members of Washington's third line -- Joel Ward, Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr -- each had a goal and two assists. They helped the Capitals claim an easy win in this Metropolitan Division matchup of teams knocked out of the playoff race.
Braden Holtby stopped 36 shots for Washington, which won its third straight after losing five in a row.
PANTHERS 4, MAPLE LEAFS 2
SENATORS 2, DEVILS 1, SO
The Senators had a power play for the final 35 seconds of overtime, but couldn't take advantage.
PREDATORS 2, COYOTES 0
The loss hurt Phoenix's quest for the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot. The Coyotes entered the day two points behind the Dallas Stars in the wild-card race. Both teams have two games remaining, including Sunday's season finale when Dallas visits Phoenix.
WILD 4, BLUES 2
Nino Niederreiter added a goal and an assist to help the Wild snap a nine-game losing streak against the Blues and win for the sixth time in seven games.
St. Louis dropped its fourth straight and also lost star T.J. Oshie after he was shouldered in the face by Wild enforcer Mike Rupp halfway through a chaotic second period. Rupp was ejected, Oshie dabbed blood from his mouth as he moved slowly back to the locker room after being down on the ice for 5 minutes.
JETS 2, BRUINS 1, SO
Little beat Chad Johnson with a low shot between his pads, the only scorer in three rounds.
Winnipeg's Evander Kane tied the game at 1 with a wrister that beat Johnson over his glove with 1:57 left in the third period.
Brad Marchand scored the opening goal at 10:12 of the first period for the NHL-leading Bruins, who have clinched the top spot in the Eastern Conference and have 115 points to lead the NHL, three ahead of the idle Anaheim Ducks.
Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press
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