NHL Scores: Avalanche clinch , Nick Foligno gets assist in Leafs debut, Bruins win again as East playoff picture takes hold, and more

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Apr 22, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) celebrates with goaltender Devan Dubnyk (40) after the Avalanche defeated the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche returned from their COVID hiatus to defeat the St. Louis Blues 4-2. Andre Burakovsky scored twice to lead the offense with Mikko Rantanen still out on COVID protocol. The Avs are the second team to clinch a post season berth with the division leader Golden Knights completing the feat yesterday.

“We played a real disciplined game today,” Burakovsky said. “That may be why we won the game. We’re doing all the right things. We have to come out and compete in every game.”

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Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves in the victory and proves to be an excellent trade deadline acquisition. Avs starting goalie Phillip Grubauer along with forward Joonas Donskoi also remain out on COVID protocol. For the Blues they waste an opportunity to jump into the fourth spot. The Coyotes still hold it by one point.

Nick Foligno gets an assist as Maple Leafs win in his debut

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Apr 22, 2021; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nick Foligno (71) congratulates Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Mathews (34) on his goal against the Winnipeg Jets during the first period at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday before the game, Nick Foligno was wearing his dad’s Maple Leafs cap and was all smiles for his Toronto debut. “It was a ’93 edition here. I think it’s got the Starter logo on the back,” he said about his father Mike who played for the Leafs from 1990-94. “Nice to be able to rock it and bring a little bit of the old with the new.”

Playing on a line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, the Maple Leafs grounded the Jets for a 5-3 win. Matthews picked up his 34th goal of the season to go along with two assists. Foligno also got an assist on the final tally scored by Marner. The Maple Leafs hold a six point lead over the Jets for first place in the North.

“Nice to get that one under my belt,” Foligno said. “Just thrilled for the guys to get a win, especially coming in the lineup and being able to celebrate with them. That was a big one for us.”

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In other North action, the Ottawa Senators blanked the Vancouver Canucks 3-0. That’s the Canucks first loss in their third game back from a three week COVID hiatus.

Bruins win again to solidly East playoff picture

The Boston Bruins won their sixth straight and have distanced themselves by 8 points over the New York Rangers. Boston beat the Buffalo Sabres easily by a 5-1 margin with Brad Marchand picking up a goal and an assist. Coupled with the Rangers losing 3-2 to the Flyers, this all but eliminates New York from contention.

Meanwhile the Penguins dusted the Devils again 5-1 to solidify their hold on a playoff spot and stay in the battle for first place. The Capitals and Islanders went scoreless all the way to a shootout with Washington prevailing in the skills competition to hold first place by just one point. The East battle for the top spot sees the Caps at 64 points with the Pens and Islanders behind them with 63 each.

Central battle for first continues to stay close

The Carolina Hurricanes look like the favorite to win the division as Sebastian Aho scored two shorthanded goals to defeat the Florida Panthers 4-2. The victory breaks the first place tie with Florida as the Canes sit atop the division by two points (67).

Meanwhile the Tampa Bay Lightning knocked off the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-1 thanks to Blake Coleman’s two markers. They hold third place with 63 points but are still within reach of the top spot. Finally, the Red Wings got four goals from deadline acquisition Jakub Vrana to knock off the red-hot Stars 7-3. That keeps the Predators still in fourth place by two points.