Despite missing superstar Sidney Crosby for most of the second half of the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched a playoff berth and are closing in on the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Less than 24 hours after an embarrassing loss to the New York Islanders, the Penguins secured their spot in the playoffs and took a big step toward the top seed, beating the New Jersey Devils 2-0 Tuesday night behind a 31-save performance by Marc-Andre Fleury.
"We've been doing this all year, bouncing back after a poor performance," said Ryan Malone, whose first-period goal proved to be the winner. "I think that shows a lot of character."
Crosby sat out his seventh straight game and 28th in 31 because of a sprained right ankle. Pittsburgh is 16-8-4 without him, including 5-2 in the past seven.
The Penguins hope he will play Thursday in Pittsburgh against the Islanders.
In other NHL games, it was Philadelphia 2, the New York Rangers 1 in overtime; Washington 3, Carolina 2 in a shootout; Boston 6, Toronto 2; Ottawa 6, Buffalo 3, Nashville 3, Columbus 0, Calgary 3, Vancouver 2, Detroit 2, St. Louis 1, Tampa Bay 3, Florida 1; and Phoenix 5, San Jose 4, OT.
The Penguins opened a four-point lead over the second-place Devils in the Atlantic Division and pulled within a point of Montreal for the lead.
"Everyone is thinking about trying to finish on top," said Malone, who has six goals against New Jersey this season. "We have to keep striving in that direction."
Pittsburgh and the Canadiens have five games to play in the regular season, one fewer than the Devils, whose four-game winless streak (0-3-1) matches their season high.
"We're in good position but we still have a lot of hockey left," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "We can't make the same mistake we made last night. I think we learned from it. We reacted really well. Winners want to play these type of games. Winners want to bounce back."
Malone scored at 5:18 of the first period with Patrik Elias off for interference.
Flyers 2, Rangers 1, OT
Mike Richards scored a breakaway goal 2:16 into overtime for visiting Philadelphia.
Sean Avery turned over the puck in the offensive zone to defenseman Jason Smith, who sent Richards in alone. With Rangers defenseman Marek Malik chasing, Richards cut to his backhand and swept a shot past Henrik Lundqvist.
That gave the Flyers their fourth straight win and moved them within one point of the sixth-place Rangers in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Danny Briere scored his 30th goal 7:32 into the third period to tie it. The Rangers tried to protect a 1-0 lead they earned just 1:41 in when Jaromir Jagr hit the 20-goal mark for the 17th straight season.
Capitals 3, Hurricanes 2, SO
Viktor Kozlov scored in the third round of the shootout for visiting Washington.
Alexander Ovechkin scored his club-record 61st goal, Alexander Semin also scored and Nicklas Backstrom had two assists for the Capitals, who have won six of seven.
Jeff Hamilton and Erik Cole scored power-play goals for Carolina, which picked up a point to strengthen its grip on the Southeast Division lead. The Hurricanes hold a four-point lead with five games remaining.
Bruins 6, Maple Leafs 2
Marco Sturm and rookie David Krejci each had a goal and an assist and visiting Boston hurt Toronto's playoff chances with a victory.
Jeremy Reich, Phil Kessel, Shawn Thornton and Glen Murray also scored for the Bruins, who maintained their hold on the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and improved to 86 points.
Alexei Ponikarovsky and Jason Blake scored for the Leafs.
Senators 6, Sabres 3
Daniel Alfredsson had two of Ottawa's five third-period goals, and Anton Volchenkov snapped a third-period tie with less than 2 minutes left in regulation to rally visiting Ottawa.
Christoph Schubert, Dean McAmmond and Antoine Vermette also scored for Ottawa.
Derek Roy scored twice before leaving the game with 5 minutes left in regulation with an apparent leg injury.
Predators 3, Blue Jackets 0
Dan Ellis stopped 36 shots for his fifth career shutout, and host Nashville earned its second straight victory to keep its fading playoff hopes alive.
Jan Hlavac and Jason Arnott each had a goal and an assist, and Radek Bonk added a goal for Nashville.
Flames 3, Canucks 2
Daymond Langkow and Dion Phaneuf scored 41 seconds apart in the third period and host Calgary rallied to beat Vancouver, moving into first place in the Northwest Division.
The Flames took a one-point lead on idle Minnesota. Each team has five games remaining.
Jarome Iginla added his 49th of the season for Calgary. The Flames have won four in a row at home and are 6-0-3 in their past nine at home.
Red Wings 2, Blues 1
Johan Franzen's power-play goal snapped a third-period tie and Henrik Zetterberg added his 150th career goal, helping visiting Detroit to its fourth straight victory.
Andy McDonald scored in the second period for the Blues.
Chris Osgood made 17 saves for the Red Wings, who lead the NHL with 108 points.
Lightning 3, Panthers 1
Jeff Halpern had a goal and two assists and host Tampa Bay hurt Florida's late playoff push.
Michel Ouellet and Filip Kuba also scored for Tampa Bay. David Booth scored for Florida.
Coyotes 5, Sharks 4, OT
Martin Hanzal scored on a wrist shot with 1:37 left in overtime for host Phoenix.
Joe Thornton had a hat trick added an assist for his second four-point game of the season for the Sharks.
Derek Morris, Enver Lisin, Shane Doan and Steven Reinprecht also scored for Phoenix.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.