The wild, wild East

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

MONTREAL -- It was one of those nights where you just didn't know where to look.

One the ice?

At the scoreboard?

At the TV?

Consider this: The playoff seedings in the Eastern Conference came down to the last two minutes of the last game of the season to be completed in the conference.

Good for fans, not so good for a math-challenged typist trying to figure out all the possible combinations on deadline.

When New Jersey Devil Jamie Langenbrunner scored with 2:23 left in the game, giving the Devils a 4-3 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, the Devils vaulted from sixth place in the East to third.

Instead of playing the Rangers in Manhattan, the Devils will now host them in East Rutherford.

It's like the Devils went into the Lincoln Tunnel and did a U-turn.

"That is amazing," said Langenbrunner after the game. "It was looking like we were going to be playing the Rangers, but not at home. Look at both the East and the West and how important one win was in the last week.

"That's great for hockey."

"It's tough to imagine when (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman and (VP) Bill Daly sat down with the schedule maker that it could be this close, this tight and this exciting," said Canadiens defenceman Sheldon Souray after the game.

"Look at Atlanta. People were watching hockey there right through (Monday) night. Same thing in Tampa. The NHL has got to be happy. It's the best time of year now."

There were many questions to be answered last night as the NHL entered its final night of the regular season with only one playoff position in the Eastern Conference decided -- the Buffalo Sabres would be the fourth seed.

Last night might have represented the busiest night on the Internet for a lot of guys that didn't involve a credit card, a webcam and some "cheerleaders."

The most popular thing being undressed last night was the New York Rangers defence, apparently.

This morning, after 1,230 games, and, it seems, at least that many questions about the state of Dominik Hasek's adductor muscle, it has finally sorted itself out.

We might not know the state of The Dominator's nether regions, but we do know now the Tampa Bay Lightning are coming north to meet the Senators for the first time in the playoffs.

Drawing the defending Stanley Cup champions in the first round probably isn't the way you would normally want to go, but if you're going to go on past performance, the Bolts are the team the Senators would want.

The Senators were 4-0 against the Lightning this season and own a 25-4-2 record against their expansion cousins since the 1997-98 season.

That's a pretty remarkable run against a pretty good team, but, of course, the Lightning have a Stanley Cup and the Senators have a long history of short springs and long summers.

The Devils, meanwhile, are looking like the favourites in the East. This is Martin Brodeur's time of year, right? With the goaltender's play having a Cup-like glitter to it right now, the Devils have reeled off 11 wins to end the season.

Consider this: They were down 19 points to the Philadelphia Flyers Jan. 6 and came back to win the division, the biggest comeback since divisional play was introduced in 1974-75.

For the Devils and the NHL, what a finish.

NOTES: The Canadiens set an NHL single-season attendance record last night with 872,193 fans this season. Last night's game was the club's 64th-straight sellout at the Bell Centre ... A question I would like to have answered: Are there people at the CBC who think they could get better ratings showing the Toronto Maple Leafs playing golf than the Senators, the Habs, the Edmonton Oilers or the Calgary Flames playing hockey? I bet you there are.


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