Coyotes win to take first place in Pacific Division

Sunday, 02.26.2012 / 1:22 AM / Countdown to the Playoffs

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

The Phoenix Coyotes have not lost in regulation this month. That's why when they went to sleep Saturday night, they were in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

Phoenix would be the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference if the season ended today thanks to its 3-1 win at Edmonton on Saturday afternoon, combined with San Jose's 6-2 loss at Nashville later in the evening. That combination allowed the Coyotes to move two points ahead of the Sharks, who still have two in games in hand.

"We talked about making February a big month for us and it has been," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "We've taken advantage of being at home a little bit more and having some time to rest.

"We know March is going to be a tough grind. We have a long way to go to the finish, and we have to make sure we take care of business in our next little homestand."

With seven games on Sunday's schedule, here's a look at how the races in each conference shape up after Saturday's action:

Eastern Conference

Division leaders

New York Rangers (84 points after Saturday's 3-2 overtime win against Buffalo) bounced back from Friday's shootout loss on Long Island by beating the Sabres in overtime at Madison Square Garden. Ryan Callahan's 100th NHL goal was the game-winner.

Boston (77 points after Saturday's 5-3 win at Ottawa) kept pace with the Rangers as they opened a home-and-home series with the Senators by winning at Scotiabank Place. The Bruins are off until Ottawa comes to TD Garden on Tuesday night.

Florida (68 points after Saturday's 3-2 shootout win at Carolina) is back atop the Southeast Division after it rallied to beat the Hurricanes in a shootout at the RBC Center. Wojtek Wolski, acquired earlier in the day from the Rangers, made it to Raleigh in time to score the tying goal with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. The Panthers will host Montreal on Sunday.

The next five:

Pittsburgh (75 points after Saturday's 8-1 win against Tampa Bay) received an MVP-type performance (three goals and an assist) from Evgeni Malkin and cruised past the Lightning at Consol Energy Center. The Pens have another home matinee Sunday, when they'll face Columbus.

Philadelphia (75 points after Saturday's 5-4 shootout win at Calgary) rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Flames in a shootout. The Flyers, who moved into fifth place with the victory, will visit San Jose on Tuesday to complete a four-game trip.

New Jersey (74 points) was idle Saturday. Marek Zidlicky should make his Devils' debut Sunday afternoon when the Devils host Tampa Bay at the Prudential Center.

Ottawa (72 points after Saturday's 5-3 loss to Boston) failed to earn any points in the standings as it suffered a loss on home ice to the Bruins. The Senators go right back to work on Sunday, when the New York Islanders come to Scotiabank Place.

Winnipeg (68 points after Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to St. Louis) outplayed the Blues for most of the afternoon but had to settle for only one point and dropped from third to eighth place by the end of the night. The Jets will host Edmonton on Monday.

On the outside looking in:

Washington (67 points after Saturday's 4-2 win at Toronto) got off to a quick start on goals from Marcus Johansson and Keith Aucoin and kept pace in the playoff race with a victory at the Air Canada Centre. The Caps will host the Islanders on Tuesday at Verizon Center.

Toronto (65 points after Saturday's 4-2 loss to Washington) got off to a rotten start and ultimately lost on home ice to the Capitals. The Leafs, who have won just once in their last nine games, will host Florida on Tuesday.

Buffalo (62 points after Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Rangers) got two goals by Drew Stafford but couldn't hold a third-period lead and left Madison Square Garden for California with just one point. The Sabres visit Anaheim on Wednesday night.

Tampa Bay (60 points after Saturday's 8-1 loss at Pittsburgh) had an awfully tough day in the Steel City, where the Bolts were crushed by the Pens. The Lightning have little time to dwell as they visit New Jersey on Sunday.

New York Islanders (60 points) was idle Saturday, although it did make news with the waiving of veteran forward Brian Rolston. The Isles are in Ottawa on Sunday.

Western Conference

Division leaders

Vancouver (86 points) did not play Saturday. The Canucks will play the first of their remaining 20 games on Sunday afternoon at Dallas.

Detroit (85 points after Saturday's 4-3 loss to Colorado) lost a home game in regulation for the first time since Nov. 3, falling behind 3-0 before a rally fell short as they failed to reclaim the No. 1 seed in the conference. The Red Wings will visit Columbus on Tuesday.

Phoenix (73 points after Saturday's 3-1 win at Edmonton) still has not lost in regulation this month (10-0-1) and remarkably sits atop the Pacific Division after beating the Oilers at Rexall Place. After sweeping the two Alberta teams, the Coyotes are off until Tuesday night, when they'll host Vancouver.

The next five:

St. Louis (83 points after Saturday's 3-2 shootout win at Winnipeg) remains four points ahead of Nashville following a shootout win against the Jets at the MTS Centre. The Blues will visit Calgary on Monday night.

Nashville (79 points after Saturday's 6-2 win against San Jose) kept pace with St. Louis with an impressive victory against the Sharks at Bridgestone Arena, led by a pair of goals from Shea Weber. The Preds will host Los Angeles on Monday night.

Chicago (73 points after Saturday's 4-0 loss at Los Angeles) has not scored a power-play goal since Jan. 24 -- a span of 39 opportunities -- and actually gave up a shorthanded tally while being smoked by the Kings. The Hawks' California trip continues Sunday at Anaheim.

San Jose (71 points after Saturday's 6-2 loss at Nashville) no longer sits atop the Pacific Division after a bad loss to the Preds. The Sharks' grueling nine-game road trip -- they're 2-5-1 thus far -- mercifully ends Sunday at Minnesota.

Dallas (68 points) was idle Saturday. The Stars will host Vancouver on Sunday afternoon.

On the outside looking in:

Los Angeles (68 points after Saturday's 4-0 win against Chicago) got a huge game from captain Dustin Brown, who responded to recent trade rumors by tallying the team's first hat trick of the season. The Kings begin a two-game road trip Monday night at Nashville.

Colorado (68 points after a 4-3 win at Detroit on Saturday) inched closer with an impressive regulation victory at Joe Louis Arena, completing a back-to-back sweep in Columbus and Detroit. The Avs will host Anaheim on Monday night.

Calgary (67 points after Saturday's 5-4 shootout loss to Philadelphia) once again had to settle for one point as it failed to hang on a to a 3-0 lead on home ice. The loss came just two nights after the Flames blew a 2-0 lead en route to a shootout loss against Phoenix. Calgary will host St. Louis on Monday night.

Minnesota (63 points) did not play Saturday. The Wild, who traded defenseman Marek Zidlicky to New Jersey on Friday for defenseman Kurtis Foster and forwards Nick Palmieri and Stephane Veilleux, will host San Jose on Sunday.

Anaheim (62 points) was off Saturday after earning 11 of a possible 16 points on an eight-game road trip. The Ducks return to Honda Center on Sunday when they will host Chicago.