Ilya Kovalchuk, Pascal Dupuis, and Marian Hossa scored to lead the Atlanta Thrashers past the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-1, last night in Raleigh, N.C.
Johan Hedberg finished with 32 saves for the Thrashers, who clinched the Southeast Division title after Tampa Bay's 7-2 home loss to Florida. Eric Belanger added a late goal for Atlanta.
Anson Carter scored for the Hurricanes, who have lost five of six games -- a stretch that cost them a chance to defend their Stanley Cup title.
The Hurricanes were eliminated from the playoff race after a loss at Tampa Bay earlier this week, making them just the third defending Cup champion to miss the postseason. Still, coach Peter Laviolette said he wanted his team to focus on winning its final games instead of thinking about next season.
But the Thrashers -- who had already clinched a playoff spot -- started the game like a team still chasing a trip to the postseason.
Kovalchuk got the first goal on a quick transition score, which began when Keith Tkachuk stopped a pass from Dennis Seidenberg along the boards in Carolina's offensive zone. Tkachuk sent the puck ahead to Kovalchuk, who zipped a shot past Cam Ward from the right side barely three minutes into the game.
Panthers 7, Lightning 2 -- Olli Jokinen had a goal and an assist, and Ville Peltonen set up three goals to lead Florida past host Tampa Bay.
The Panthers chased Lightning goalie Johan Holmqvist with four goals in their first 12 shots.
Nathan Horton opened the scoring three minutes in with his career-high 31st goal. He has nine goals and three assists in eight games against Tampa Bay this season.
Noah Welch, David Booth, and Jay Bouwmeester also scored in the first period, while Panthers goalie Ed Belfour faced only three shots at the other end.
Stars 2, Ducks 1 -- Vladislav Nagy converted in the fourth round to send host Dallas to a shootout victory over Anaheim, preventing the Ducks from clinching their first Pacific Division title.
Jussi Jokinen, Sergei Zubov, and Mike Modano failed to score in the shootout for the Stars before Nagy beat Anaheim goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.