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Hurricanes Eliminated From Playoff Race

Updated:
The defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes will be watching the playoffs from home this season.

The Hurricanes blew a two-goal lead and lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Tuesday night to become the first defending Stanley Cup winner to miss the playoffs the next season since New Jersey in 1996.

``We're completely frustrated as a team. Embarrassed,'' Carolina center Eric Staal said. ``We wanted to be in the playoffs. We wanted to defend the Cup we won last year, and we didn't get it done tonight. It's unacceptable for the guys we have in this room and the amount of talent we have. Everyone feels just terrible.''

Vincent Lecavalier and Dan Boyle scored just under two minutes apart early in the third to lift Tampa Bay. Eric Perrin also scored for the Lightning, who trail Southeast Division-leading Atlanta by one point.

In other NHL games, it was: Buffalo 4, Pittsburgh 1; Washington 1, Florida 0; Montreal 2, Boston 0; Detroit 3, Columbus 0; Toronto 3; Philadelphia 2, in overtime, New Jersey 2, Ottawa 1, in a shootout; New York Islanders 3, New York Rangers 2, in a shootout; Minnesota 3, Edmonton 0; Chicago 3, Nashville 2, in a shootout; Colorado 4, Calgary 3; St. Louis 5, Phoenix 2; and Vancouver 4, Los Angeles 2.

Ray Whitney and Rod Brind'Amour scored for Carolina, which has dropped four of five. It was just the third time in 30 games Carolina has lost when holding a lead entering the third period.

``It's not something we do a lot of,'' Staal said. ``It couldn't have been a worse time than right now for that to happen.''

``This is the biggest loss of the year,'' Hurricanes forward Cory Stillman said. ``Tonight gave us an opportunity to stay in the playoffs, and we let one slip away.''

Sabres 4, Penguins 1

Buffalo clinched the Northeast Division and the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in 27 years, slowing Pittsburgh's rush to the postseason behind Thomas Vanek's 40th goal.

In a possible preview of an Eastern Conference playoff matchup, Vanek and Jason Pominville scored goals slightly more than a minute apart in the third period to give the Sabres only their fourth victory in Pittsburgh in 10 seasons.

Buffalo last won a conference title, the Prince of Wales in the 1979-80 season, and hadn't won its division in 10 years.

Islanders 3, Rangers 2, SO

Wade Dubielewicz, playing because of Rick DiPietro's concussion, helped the host Islanders stave off playoff elimination by stopping 36 shots, plus three more in the shootout to lead the Islanders past the Rangers.

Miroslav Satan had the only shootout goal, beating Henrik Lundqvist with a backhander in the first round.

The Islanders are four points behind Montreal and three behind Toronto, with a game in hand on both.

Devils 2, Senators 1, SO

Martin Brodeur tied Bernie Parent's single-season record for wins and Lou Lamoriello got a win in his return to coaching in host New Jersey's shootout victory.

Brodeur got his 47th win and tied Parent's record set in 1973-74 by making 22 saves in regulation. He also stopped four of six attempts in a shootout that the Devils twice extended with goals by Jamie Langenbrunner and Sergei Brylin in the fourth and fifth rounds. John Madden, who scored for the Devils in regulation, ended the shootout with a backhander past Ray Emery.

Blackhawks 3, Predators 2, SO

Jeffrey Hamilton flipped the puck over a sprawling Chris Mason, and visiting Chicago won in a shootout for its third straight victory.

Jason Williams and Radim Vrbata scored to start the shootout for Chicago with similar shots that easily beat Mason, who had skated out to the edge of the crease. Mikael Holmqvist and Dustin Byfuglien scored in regulation for Chicago.

The Predators have lost three straight and are 3-5-2 in their past 10 to drop out of the top of the NHL, Western Conference and Central Division standings.

Canadiens 2, Bruins 0

Saku Koivu scored twice, including his career-high 22nd goal in the third period, and Jaroslav Halak got his second shutout in host Montreal's win before the Bell Centre's 100th straight sellout crowd.

Koivu scored his 21st goal on a power play at 16:46 to reach 70 points for only the second time in his career. The Canadiens captain brought the crowd of 21,273 to its feet in a roar when he beat Hannu Toivonen for his second goal of the game with 5:18 remaining.

Maple Leafs 3, Flyers 2, OT

Bryan McCabe's power-play goal 2:18 into overtime gave host Toronto a win and kept its playoff hopes alive.

The Leafs remain one point behind eighth-place Montreal for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Ian White and Hal Gill also scored for the Leafs, who won their eighth straight home game. Andrew Raycroft's 37th win tied the franchise record by Ed Belfour in 2002-2003.

Avalanche 4, Flames 3

Joe Sakic scored a goal and assisted on Colorado's other three goals as the visiting Avalanche kept their remote playoff chances alive with a victory.

Colorado pulled within five points of the eighth-place Flames in the Western Conference with each team having three games left. The teams meet in Denver on Sunday, the last day of the regular season.

The Avalanche are the NHL's hottest team with points in 15 of their past 16 games (13-1-2).

Canucks 4, Kings 2

Bryan Smolinski, Taylor Pyatt and Matt Cooke scored in the second period to help host Vancouver rally from a two-goal deficit.

Markus Naslund scored into an empty net with 31.2 seconds left, and Roberto Luongo made 15 saves to help the Canucks stay three points ahead of Minnesota atop the Northwest Division. Vancouver can clinch the division title _ and a top-three seed in the Western Conference playoffs _ with a win over Colorado on Thursday night.

Red Wings 3, Blue Jackets 0

Dominik Hasek made 35 saves in his 76th career shutout and eighth of the season to lift host Detroit.

Hasek tied Ed Belfour and Tony Esposito for eighth on the career shutout list.

Kyle Calder, Todd Bertuzzi, and Kris Draper scored for Detroit.

Wild 3, Oilers 0

Niklas Backstrom stopped 25 shots for his fourth shutout this season, helping host Minnesota end a three-game winless skid.

Mikko Koivu and Branko Radivojevic scored power-play goals for Minnesota, which reached 100 points for the first time in franchise history.

The loss was the fifth straight for Edmonton, and eighth in a row on the road. The Oilers have lost 17 of 18.

Capitals 1, Panthers 0

Olie Kolzig made 27 saves and posted his first shutout in more than three years for host Washington.

Alex Ovechkin scored his 44th goal of the season for the game's only score.

The shutout was Kolzig's first since Feb. 15, 2004, during the Capitals' 4-0 win at Chicago, and the 34th of his 18-year NHL career.

Blues 5, Coyotes 2

Doug Weight and Petr Cajanek had a goal and an assist for visiting St. Louis.

D.J. King scored his first career goal, and Radek Dvorak and Barret Jackman also scored for the Blues, who have won three of four.

Daniel Carcillo and Jeremy Roenick scored for the Coyotes, who have lost 13 of their last 15.
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