Oh, and the teams ranked 22nd (Arizona Coyotes), 23rd (Chicago Blackhawks) and 24th (Montreal Canadiens) in regular-season points percentage can all clinch a playoff spot. Even for a league obsessed with parity, that's something.
Check out the ESPN NHL Playoffs Daily to catch up every day of the postseason until the Stanley Cup is handed out in October.
Note: All times Eastern
Qualification round, Game 4: No. 7 New York Islanders vs. No. 10 Florida Panthers (NYI lead 2-1) | 12 p.m.
The Isles couldn't get it done in Game 3 on Wednesday, but now get a second chance to eliminate Florida and earn a spot in the next round. Penalties (including a Semyon Varlamov gaffe) and a stagnant power play contributed to New York's third-period collapse. The Cats are going to rely on their power play, which scored two goals in the pivotal Game 3 win and is now 3-for-9 in the series. Our regular Sergei Bobrovsky watch: The expensive but underperforming Florida goaltender had a decent Game 3, stopping 20 of 22 shots. Coach Joel Quenneville may consider some other lineup changes; some of that depends on if forward Jonathan Huberdeau (injured in Game 3) is available.
Qualification round, Game 4: No. 6 Nashville Predators vs. No. 11 Arizona Coyotes (ARI leads 2-1) | 2:30 p.m.
The Yotes have a chance to qualify for the playoffs -- technically their first trip since 2012 -- and coach Rick Tocchet just wants to get that win. "Being up 2-1, it's like, 'Well, we make a mistake it doesn't matter, we still have the next game' -- but that's just a dangerous mindset," Tocchet said. "The mindset has to be the same whether you're facing elimination or whether you're trying to close a series out." The Predators' offense vanished in the Game 3 loss, and Nashville also looks mistake-prone. Fans are asking for more of Matt Duchene, the center the team signed to a $56 million contract last summer. He has a single assist in this series, and has done virtually nothing at 5-on-5.
Qualification round, Game 4: No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins vs. No. 12 Montreal Canadiens (MTL leads 2-1) | 4 p.m.
So here we are, with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins on the verge of elimination to the Montreal Canadiens. This was the exact scenario everyone feared when the NHL expanded the playoffs to 24 teams (as a reminder ... Montreal was team No. 24). Of course, should the Penguins lose, they'll get a 12.5% chance at drafting Alexis Lafreniere, which will help them stay relevant for years to come. But a qualification-round exit would be a huge disappointment considering how well Pittsburgh battled this season, which led GM Jim Rutherford to be a buyer at the trade deadline.
Qualification round, Game 4: No. 5 Edmonton Oilers vs. No. 12 Chicago Blackhawks (CHI leads 2-1) | 6:45 p.m.
With the Oilers facing elimination, it feels like Connor McDavid is due for a big game -- which is weird to say, as he's already been on a tear this series. McDavid has joined Jari Kurri as the only Oilers to record five or more goals through three games of a single postseason. That's right, it's something even Wayne Gretzky hasn't done in his career. Let's talk about the Blackhawks, though. What an emphatic win in Game 3 to take control of the series. It feels like the veteran core and younger players have formed a nice synergy -- both on and off the ice -- to get the squad clicking at the right time.
Qualification round, Game 4: No. 8 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. No. 9 Columbus Blue Jackets (CBJ lead 2-1) | 8 p.m.
About 20 hours after that epic overtime Game 3, these two get to go at it again. The fatigue factor will be intriguing; Cam Atkinson, Zach Werenski, Seth Jones and Morgan Rielly all played 30 minutes or more on Thursday night. Columbus is riding high. The Blue Jackets are lucky to have two capable goaltenders, but it will feel weird to see Joonas Korpisalo ride the bench after he crushed the first 96 minutes of this series. As for the Leafs? It's a tense situation for Sheldon Keefe's crew (and a big moment for the coach himself). He wasn't pleased with his team's effort in Game 3 -- at all. "I didn't like our game at 1-0, 2-0, 3-0," the coach said. "We got what we deserved. We didn't have any purpose or plan to our game."
Qualification round, Game 4: No. 7 Vancouver Canucks vs. No. 10 Minnesota Wild (VAN leads 2-1) | 10:45 p.m.
Vancouver hasn't been to the playoffs since 2015, but the Canucks can punch their ticket with a win on Friday. The Canucks are known as a young, exciting team to watch. Even as Elias Pettersson got his first goal of the tournament and Quinn Hughes dished out three assists, Game 3 had an old-school, physical feel. Each team took 11 penalties. Things were getting nasty. The Wild say if they have any chance at Game 4, they'll need to tone that down. "You're trying to get flow in the game, and it just seemed like when you did get something going it was a power play or a penalty kill," Marcus Foligno said on Thursday. "We're such a good 5-on-5 team, and when we can roll four lines we're really good. We definitely just have to calm it down a little bit with the penalties."
About last night...
Vancouver Canucks 3, Minnesota Wild0 (VAN leads 2-1)
Brock Boeser opened the scoring for Vancouver for his second goal in as many games. But this one was extra special for Boeser, who returned to the bench then pointed to the sky in honor of his childhood friend, Ty Alyea, who died in a car accident six years ago to the day. Boeser wears No. 6 with Vancouver because it was Alyea's high school hockey number. "It's obviously a tough day for my friends and I," Boeser said. "It's crazy how fast time flies, but to be able to get one for him is something special."
Quinn Hughes had three assists, Elias Pettersson got his first goal of the series and Jacob Markstrom had a great effort in goal to pace the Canucks. The Wild are now on the brink of elimination, and here's a telling stat: They have yet to score a goal at 5-on-5. Not great. Could Friday be the last time we see Mikko Koivu in a Wild uniform? Full recap.
Philadelphia Flyers 3, Washington Capitals 1
The Flyers were one of the hottest teams in the NHL at the time of the pause. They shared the best record in the league from Jan. 8 on, and went 9-1-0 in the 10 games right before the NHL halted operations. They've picked off right where they left off, going 2-0-0 in the restart so far, and have clinched no worse than the No. 2 seed in the East (a game against the Lightning on Saturday will determine that). Philly's second line of Kevin Hayes, Scott Laughton and Travis Konecny have been particularly good, and they picked up eight points on Thursday. The Caps were once again without Norris Trophy nominee John Carlson. Hopefully Carlson, who is nursing an unknown injury, gets back soon. With the loss, the Caps will either get the No 3 or No. 4 seed in the East. Full recap.
Vegas Golden Knights 6, St. Louis Blues 4
This was the wackiest game of the day (until the Blue Jackets' comeback). For the second time in as many games, the Golden Knights rallied from a two-goal deficit to win. Vegas dictated play for most of the game, even as Marc-Andre Fleury struggled, and ended up winning thanks to a pair of goals each from Alex Tuch and Shea Theodore. The Golden Knights now play the Colorado Avalanche to see who gets the No. 1 seed in the West. The Blues have gone 0-2 in the round robin, and face the Stars to see who gets the 3-seed. Full recap.
Columbus Blue Jackets 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 3 (OT) (CBJ lead 2-1)
The Blue Jackets are officially the NHL's comeback kids. In the history of the franchise, the Blue Jackets have only 12 playoff wins; in five of them, they've overcome multi-goal deficits. This one was special. The Leafs built a 3-0 lead, and coach John Tortorella pulled Joonas Korpisalo for Elvis Merzlikins to give his team a boost. Boy did it work. According to Evolving Hockey, the Blue Jackets had a 3.5% chance to win when Pierre-Luc Dubois had a giveaway with 10:06 left in the second period. Dubois' first goal to make it 3-1 improved it to 11.7%. Bit by bit, the Blue Jackets chipped away, before a thrilling back-and-forth effort from both teams in the extra frame. Dubois was the star, finishing with a hat trick and the OT game winner. The Leafs are now on the brink. Full recap.
Calgary Flames 4, Winnipeg Jets 0 (CGY wins 3-1)
Ah, the poor Jets. This season started with drama -- remember the controversy surrounding Dustin Byfuglien skipping training camp, which feels like years ago? Winnipeg somehow kept things together to make the playoffs, and then in the first game lose their two best forwards to injuries. One can only wonder how this series might have been different if Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele were available. Credit, of course, should also go to the Flames, who found their offensive stride at exactly the right time. Calgary is playing a tough brand of hockey that should scare other teams in the West. Full recap.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, F, Columbus Blue Jackets
A hat trick in the postseason, including the overtime game winner, gets No. 1 star status pretty much any night. But to do it a game after the entire hockey world saw him get chewed out by John Tortorella on the bench? Epic.
Jacob Markstrom, G, Vancouver Canucks
The Swedish goalie had a 27-save shutout to lift his team within one win of a playoff berth. It was the first postseason shutout for the Canucks since Roberto Luongo blanked the Bruins in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
Scott Laughton, F, Philadelphia Flyers
The 26-year-old paced the red-hot Flyers with two goals and and assist on Thursday. Philadelphia's second line, which also features Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny, is crushing this tournament so far. Just look at this chemistry:
Outfit of the day
The fashion MVPs of this tournament so far have been the Toronto Maple Leafs, led by Auston Matthews, who rocked this Pascal Siakam jersey to the rink Thursday:
Good deed of the day
According to Global News, members of the Vegas Golden Knights arranged a pizza delivery for homeless people right outside the NHL bubble in Edmonton.
Celebration of the night
Maple Leafs rookie Nick Robertson has received a lot of summer hype -- even if you're not from Toronto, you've probably heard the Toronto media gush about him -- so it was neat to see the 18-year-old notch his first career goal. His reaction is so pure.
Quote of the day
"We got lucky enough to be in the playoffs this year. We battled hard to be here. We shouldn't be here. But at the same time, sometimes it's the hockey gods at some point." -- Canadiens center Phillip Danault telling it like it is.
Blue Jackets take down Maple Leafs in OT
Columbus scores 18:24 into overtime as the Blue Jackets put the Maple Leafs on the brink of elimination.