Blackhawks Shut Out By Lightning; Playoff Race Tightens

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Flames, Stars Win Sunday Night, Close In On Blackhawks

The two teams chasing the Blackhawks most closely in the NHL’s Western Conference standings, the Calgary Flames and the Dallas Stars, both won their games Sunday night. The Flames now trail the Blackhawks by only one point and the Stars are three points behind.

The good news for the Blackhawks regarding Calgary is that the Flames have played two more games. Thus, Calgary’s maximum number of points is 95, presuming they win both those games. If the Blackhawks can win two of their remaining four games, they’d eliminate Calgary.

The Stars, though, have played the same number of games as the Blackhawks and have four games left — they can max out at 97 points. The Blackhawks would have to win three of four to eliminate the Stars, no matter what Dallas does.

The Hawks travel to Montreal to face the tough Canadiens on Tuesday night, having been shut out in two of their last three games. When Detroit won last night, they clinched the Central Division. The Hawks could still finish as high as fourth, but they’ll need a lot of help.

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Blackhawks Lose 2-0 To Lightning In First Of Five Games This Week

This wasn’t the way the Blackhawks wanted to start this final week of the regular season, especially playing at home.

The 2-0 shutout loss, which was 1-0 until the Lightning scored an empty-net goal with 22 seconds remaining to seal the deal, means the Hawks could be only one point ahead of Calgary and three ahead of Dallas if both of those teams win their games later this evening; both are leading in the second period as of this writing.

The Blackhawks peppered Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith with 31 shots, but he turned all of them away for his first shutout of the season. Corey Crawford was nearly as good, and the Hawks defense kept Tampa Bay from making many shots at all — only 14. But one of them, a tip-in by Vincent Lecavalier in the first period, was the difference in the game.

The Blackhawks will face the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal on Tuesday night and then return home to play the St. Louis Blues at the UC the next night; the Wednesday date is a national-TV game on Versus.

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Chicago Blackhawks Vs. Tampa Bay Lightning: It Doesn't Get Any Easier

The Blackhawks' task is clear: win all their remaining games and they're in the playoffs no matter what. That may not be easy, as four of the five games left are against playoff teams, including a pair back-to-back to finish the regular season against the Detroit Red Wings.

That also includes tonight's home match at the United Center against the Tampa Bay Lightning; the Hawks lost to the Lightning in Tampa in a shootout about four weeks ago in the only other meeting between the two teams this year. Tampa Bay has clinched a playoff spot and is riding a four-game winning streak. For the Blackhawks, Friday night's win against Columbus was critical. The Hawks hold the tiebreaker advantage over both the Stars and Flames; Calgary trails by three points after a win last night, but has played two more games, so they can max out at 95 points. The Blackhawks can max out at 102. Dallas has played the same number of games as the Blackhawks, so with five games left they can max out at 97.

It's going to be a wild final week. Tune in tonight at 6 p.m. on WGN (Chicago viewers only) to see the fun begin.

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