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Penguins clinch NHL playoff spot with win

March 29, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Chris Kunitz and Beau Bennett scored goals 47 seconds apart midway through the third period and Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves as the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched an NHL playoff spot with a 2-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

James Wisniewski scored a power-play goal for Columbus with 3:06 left, but Pittsburgh hung on as Fleury made huge saves on Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson during a scrum in the final seconds.

“We’re fighting for every inch we can get right now,” coach Dan Bylsma said after his team ended a string of three regulation defeats. “Tonight, this was exactly what we’ve talked about and wanted from this game. It was a playoff-type game, with playoff-type intensity.”

Curtis McElhinney, taking the place of the ill Sergei Bobrovsky, stopped the first 28 Penguins shots before Kunitz notched his 34th with 9:25 left.

The Penguins are now at 99 points, moving closer to clinching the Metropolitan Division title.

The Anaheim Ducks, meanwhile, missed an opportunity to move into a tie with San Jose for first in the Pacific Division, falling to the last-place Edmonton Oilers 4-3 in overtime.

Andrew Ference scored at 3:51 of overtime and Ben Scrivens stopped 48 shots for Edmonton, which ended a three-game skid.

The Ducks remain one win short of tying their club record of 48 wins in a season, set in 2006-07 when they won the Stanley Cup.

The Dallas Stars had seven different players score goals in their 7-3 victory over the Nashville Predators.

After Nashville pulled within 5-3 in the third period on Eric Nystrom’s goal, Valeri Nichushkin and Cody Eakin scored nine seconds apart to give the Stars a four-goal cushion.

Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen allowed three goals on 28 shots

Elsewhere, the Philadelphia Flyers topped the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2, getting goals from Vinny Lecavalier, Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds.

Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk scored four seconds into the second period, matching an NHL record for fastest goal from the start of a period. But the Maple Leafs’ skid reached seven games.

In other games, the Calgary Flames ended New York’s winning streak at five games, beating the Rangers 4-3, and the Ottawa Senators defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-3.

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