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Habs lose but still clinch playoff spot

THE Montreal Canadiens clinched a place in the playoffs despite a 4-5 overtime loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins on Thursday.

Right wing Mark Recchi scored two goals for the Bruins, including the game-winner at 2:42 into the extra session.

The loss was enough to give Montreal (41-29-11) one of the two remaining postseason berths in the East, along with the New York Rangers, who beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 and could face Boston (52-18-10) in the playoffs' first round.

The Canadiens and Rangers are tied for seventh on 93 points with one game remaining. The Canadiens will finish against Pittsburgh while The Rangers will close the regular season in Philadelphia. The seventh seed will open the playoff against Washington, and the eighth seed will face Boston.

"We had some tough times throughout the season and it hasn't been the easiest one," said Canadiens center Saku Koivu. "But the way we've been playing, the way we've been handling everything that's gone on, I'm really proud of our team."

Elsewhere in the National Hockey League, it was: Sabres 5, Hurricanes 1; Panthers 3, Thrashers 2; Devils 3, Senators 2 (in a shootout); Predators 4, Tigers 3 (in SO); Penguins 6, Islanders 1; Capitals 4, Lightning 2; Stars 3, Avalanche 2 (in SO); Canucks 1, Kings 0; and Coyotes 4, Sharks 1.

In Boston, Matt D'Agostini scored twice for the Canadiens, who rallied after trailing 1-3 in the second period.

D'Agostini's second goal put Montreal in the lead 4-3 with 3:07 left in the period, after defenseman Mathieu Schneider tied the match.

Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara ensured the match would go into extra time, finding the net 5:27 into the third.

"It's another test to get ready for the playoffs," Boston winger Milan Lucic said.

"It's really important because you want to go into the playoffs with a good feeling, and in these last three games you don't want to be creating bad habits for yourself," he added.

Boston has won seven of its last eight games, despite injuries to winger P.J. Axelsson and defensemen Andrew Ference and Dennis Wideman.

Philip Kessel, playing in his second game after missing five games with an injury, notched his 33rd goal of the year in the second period to give the Bruins a 2-1 advantage.

Patrice Bergeron began the scoring for Boston and Recchi's first score put the team up 3-1.

"We're healing our injured players but the players that are out there have to play well," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.

"We don't want to lose that edge that we've built over the last couple of weeks."

In New York, Henrik Lundqvist made 37 saves, and Ryan Callahan had a goal and an assist as the Rangers clinched an Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Markus Naslund also scored for the Rangers.

Daniel Briere scored for the Flyers, and Martin Biron made 29 saves.

At Raleigh, North Carolina, Jason Pominville scored twice, and Ryan Miller made 26 saves to help Buffalo snap Carolina's nine-game winning streak.

Matt Ellis and Jochen Hecht also scored and Derek Roy converted a penalty shot for Buffalo. Eric Staal scored his 40th goal for Carolina in the final minute.


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