NASHVILLE -- It was a late night in the race for the bottom of the NHL's standings as the Sabres joined the Arizona Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers in escaping the Eastern Time Zone.
The biggest takeaway from Saturday: With 10 games left for the three contenders, this looks like a two-team "race" (yes, the quotes are intentional) between Darcy Regier's old team and the former Sabres GM's new team.
The Edmonton Oilers rallied from a 3-1 deficit and pulled out a 5-4 overtime win over Philadelphia in Saturday's final game, pushing six points ahead of the last-place Sabres. Buffalo and Arizona, meanwhile, both lost in regulation as they careen toward Thursday's bizarre showdown in First Niagara Center.
In today's Inside the NHL column, John Vogl writes that the upcoming pair of games against the Coyotes "might have as much impact as drafting Gilbert Perreault, trading for Dominik Hasek and letting Chris Drury and Daniel Briere walk away."
On the ice Saturday night:
---The Sabres suffered a 3-0 loss in Nashville despite a career-best 40 saves from Matt Hackett, who was terrific in goal. Next up is Monday's game against the Flying Lindy Ruffs in Dallas, who handed Chicago a 4-0 blanking on Saturday night. Does Ted Nolan go back with Hackett or put Anders Lindback on the ice against the team he started the season with?
Speaking of Lindback, his NHL career started as Pekka Rinne's backup in Nashville and the Predators star told me Saturday he's not surprised by what his old teammate is doing.
The Sabres are 1-6-2 in their last nine games and will be off today in Dallas before meeting the Stars Monday night.
---Edmonton got Taylor Hall back, used some loose goaltending from Philadelphia's Ray Emery and got the game-winner from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to beat the Flyers. Hall assisted.
---The Coyotes got a short-handed goal just 94 seconds into the game thanks to a Sidney Crosby giveaway and never scored again in a 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh. The Coyotes have lost five straight games in regulation, are 0-6-1 in their last seven -- and are a ghastly 1-16-1 since Feb. 9. Tank City, folks.
---It was a huge night on the ice for Jack Eichel as well, as Boston University completed its transformation from a 10-21 team to the champions of Hockey East for the first time since 2009 by beating Mass-Lowell, 5-3, in the championship game at TD Garden. Eichel had two goals and an assist in the win and was named tournament MVP after collecting 11 points in the four games. His 66 points for the season now rank as the most by any NCAA freshman since Paul Kariya piled up 100 for Maine in the 1992-93 season.
Wrote Boston Herald columnist Steve Buckley in quoting BU coach David Quinn: “He’s the Secretariat of hockey players.”
Check out this #sickmitts goal Eichel scored last night in the first period:
GP W L OT Pts
Buffalo 72 20 45 7 47
Arizona 72 21 43 8 50
Edmonton 72 20 39 13 53
Buffalo (10): March 23 at Dallas, 26 vs. Arizona, 28 at Colorado, 30 at Arizona. April 1 vs. Toronto, 3 vs. Chicago, 4 at New York Islanders, 6 vs. Carolina, 10 at Columbus, 11 vs. Pittsburgh.
Arizona (10): March 22 vs. Vancouver, 24 at Detroit, 26 at Buffalo, 28 at Pittsburgh, 30 vs. Buffalo. April 3 at San Jose, 4 vs. San Jose, 7 at Calgary, 9 at Vancouver, 11 vs. Anaheim.
Edmonton (10): March 23 vs. Winnipeg, 25 vs. Colorado, 27 vs. Dallas, 30 at Colorado. April 1 at Anaheim, 2 at Los Angeles, 4 vs. Calgary, 7 vs. Los Angeles, 9 vs. San Jose, 11 at Vancouver.
The team finishing last overall has a 20% chance of receiving the No. 1 overall pick but will draft no worse than second. The team finishing next-to-last overall has a 13.5% chance of drafting first. The odds of drafting first continue to diminish moving upward in the standings as such: 11.5%, 9.5%, 8.5%, 7.5%, 6.5%, 6%, 5%, 3.5%, 3%, 2.5%, 2%, 1%.
Connor McDavid, Erie Otters
Gms G A Pts +/- Next Up
47 44 76 120 +60 March 22 at Niagara
Jack Eichel, Boston University
Gms G A Pts +/- Next Up
36 24 42 66 + 46 NCAA Tournament, TBA