Blackhawks clinch spot in playoffs


Looking to repeat as Stanley Cup champions and win their fourth title in seven years, the Chicago Blackhawks took a crucial step Sunday.

They’re back in the playoffs.

Andrew Ladd scored the go-ahead goal with 2:27 left in the third period and Chicago clinched its eighth straight postseason berth with a 3-2 victory over the skidding Vancouver Canucks.

Jonathan Toews stickhandled into the Canucks zone before dropping a pass in the high slot to Ladd, who fired in a one-timer for his 23rd goal this season and sixth in 13 games with Chicago.

“I love the way he played the last couple of games,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “He brings that presence and has had some pace to his game and some energy and he was rewarded with some huge goals for us.”

Ladd was coming off a three-point night against Calgary on Saturday in which he scored two goals and added an assist.

“We wanted to build on last night’s win and just keep getting points,” Ladd said. “It’s still a dogfight in the standings and for position, and these are the games you need to have — and a lot of times they are tough. You are playing against a team with nothing to lose and a lot of young guys that are trying to prove something and it can go either way.”

Tomas Fleischmann and Teuvo Teravainen also scored to help the Blackhawks improve to 44-25-7. Trevor van Riemsdyk had two assists for the defending champs.

Chicago earned consecutive wins for the first time since March 2.

Scott Darling made 26 saves in his ninth victory of the season. Regular starter Corey Crawford is not on the road trip due to an upper-body injury.

“I thought he had a couple of key saves,” Quenneville said about Darling. “I thought he was big, strong, quick and that he anticipated really well.”

Penguins 3, Rangers 2 (OT)

In New York, Sidney Crosby scored on a deflection at 4:30 of overtime, and surging Pittsburgh beat the Rangers in a potential first-round playoff preview.

Matt Cullen and Phil Kessel also scored for the Penguins, who have won eight of nine. Marc-Andre Fleury made 25 saves.

Eric Staal scored twice for the Rangers, who had won three straight. Kevin Hayes and Jesper Fast assisted on both of Staal’s goals. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 29 shots.

Hurricanes 3, Devils 2

In Raleigh, North Carolina, Victor Rask scored twice for the first multigoal game of his career, leading the Hurricanes past New Jersey.

Rask, who has scored in three straight games, ended the Hurricanes’ skid of six consecutive games without a power-play goal when he connected in the first period. He scored his 20th of the season early in the second to make it 3-0.