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Blackhawks get help to make playoffs

Antti Miettinen's goal early in the third period against his former team gave Minnesota the lead and kept Dallas out of the playoffs, with a 5-3 season-ending win by the Wild over the Stars Sunday night.

When Chicago lost at home to Detroit earlier in the day, Dallas had a chance to grab the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference field that looked like a long shot just a week and a half ago. The Stars had won their previous four games and were in position to catch the defending champion Blackhawks and win the head-to-head tiebreaker.

But Minnesota played with plenty of pride, scoring first on a rare goal by enforcer Brad Staubitz and last on an empty-netter by Pierre-Marc Bouchard after the Stars pulled goalie Kari Lehtonen with 1:21 left.

The Red Wings carved out a 4-3 victory and put Chicago into a wait-and-watch mode. But the Blackhawks got the assistance they needed from the Wild and finished in the final playoff spot in the West.

Chicago will face top-seeded Vancouver in the first round. The Blackhawks have beaten the Canucks in the conference semifinals in each of the last two seasons. Chicago was 2-2 this season against Vancouver.

"It's so frustrating it has come down to this. I'm pretty much speechless," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said after his team's loss before the Wild-Stars game.

Now Toews and his teammates will be able to redeem themselves if they make another deep playoff run.

Lemaire retires again

Jacques Lemaire is going back into retirement. The Hall of Famer announced after the Devils' 3-2 season-ending win over the Bruins that he is bringing his coaching career to a close again. "I'm going back where I was before," Lemaire said. "It demands a lot and I want to enjoy life. I want to enjoy the family."

The 65-year-old Lemaire said he made his decision about two days ago and told his team about it before the game. He came out of retirement before Christmas after rookie coach John MacLean was fired with the Devils stunningly at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Twenty-seven points out of a playoff spot in early January, they went 23-3-2 to draw within six points a couple of weeks ago. The rally fell short and the Devils missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996.

DeBoer firedThe Florida Panthers fired coach Peter DeBoer, one day after the team missed the playoffs for the 10th straight season. Florida's 72 points were worst in the Eastern Conference. -- AP

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