Game recaps featuring Canadian NHL teams, plus the latest on Taylor Hall, Cory Schneider, Mikhail Grabovski and Mikael Backlund.

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens became the third team this season to clinch a playoff berth by crushing the Buffalo Sabres 5-1, regaining first place in the Northeast Division. PK Subban had two points to open a two-point lead over Max Pacioretty in the team scoring lead.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Since the Canadiens last won the Stanley Cup 20 years ago, their fans haven’t been used to their club clinching a playoff berth with so much time to spare in the regular season.  This time a year ago, the Habs were dead last in their division and would finish last in the Conference. Quite an improvement in a year.

Evander Kane celebrates one of his two goals against the Panthers.

Evander Kane celebrates one of his two goals against the Panthers.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: The Jets moved into a tie with the eighth overall NY Rangers (who hold two games in hand) by thumping the Florida Panthers 7-2. Evander Kane scored twice, while Dustin Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian, Grant Clitsome, Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little all had two-point performances.

OTTAWA CITIZEN: Colin Greening snapped a 1-1 tie with the game-winning goal as the Senators ended their five-game losing skid with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Though the Senators are tied with the NY Islanders, they hold sixth overall because they have a game in hand. Last night’s win was huge, as they avoided sliding into eighth overall.

EDMONTON SUN: The Oilers need to build upon Taylor Hall’s commitment and passion.

VANCOUVER PROVINCE: Canucks goalie Cory Schneider (flu) hopes to practice Friday in preparation for Saturday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.

TORONTO STAR: Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle has been frustrated so far in his efforts to get more out of under-achieving center Mikhail Grabovski.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Grabovski’s decline this season sparked speculation he was being shopped at the trade deadline, but given this is a shortened season, I don’t believe the Leafs intend on giving up on him.

CALGARY HERALD: Trying to determine where pending RFA center Mikael Backlund fits into the Flames rebuilding process.