TORONTO - The Art Ross Trophy race came down to the final minutes of a game on the last day of the NHL regular season. And that's not the only reason it was a historic accomplishment.
Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars picked up two points in the final 125 seconds Saturday night to pass John Tavares of the New York Islanders for his first Art Ross. Benn's 87 points are the lowest to lead the NHL since Gordie Howe's 86 in 1962-63 and the second-lowest points per game in history (1.06), behind the trophy's first winner, Elmer Lach, in 1947-48 (1.02).
Tavares said last month that officials letting a lot of penalties go may be the root of the lowest point total for a scoring champion in half a century.
"I've noticed since the all-star break with how tight the standings are, how big games are, how important points are, I think a lot more is being let go and letting players decide the game," said Tavares, who finished with 86 points. "That's fine. I think you just want the consistency there. For me, that obviously takes away some power-play opportunities."
One player who didn't let power-play opportunities go to waste was Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who scored 25 of them on the way to 53 overall as the runaway Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy winner. Ovechkin finished 10 goals ahead of Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos.
Ovechkin's was the 19th 50-goal season since the 2004-05 lockout. Six of those are his.
As dominant as Ovechkin was in the goal-scoring department, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was in almost every category. Price led the NHL in goals-against average (1.96), save percentage (.933) and victories (44) and finished second to the Pittsburgh Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury in shutouts (10 to nine).
"To see him take this next step in his career and his game, it's something this team needs to reach the next level," Canadiens teammate P.K. Subban said of Price. "He's done that consistently for us all year."
Because the Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks tied for an NHL-best 189 goals allowed, Price shared the William M. Jennings Trophy with Corey Crawford. Not counting shootout losses, which are part of the league determining the award, the Canadiens allowed 184 to Chicago's 186.
Other than Price being front-runner for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, there's no clear picture about the other awards that are voted on and will be presented in June in Las Vegas.
Before those trophies are handed out, 16 teams are left with a shot at the Stanley Cup. The two all-Canadian series — the Canadiens against the Ottawa Senators, and the Vancouver Canucks against the Calgary Flames — start Wednesday.
Also Wednesday the Washington Capitals open up against the New York Islanders, and the Nashville Predators face the Chicago Blackhawks. The Winnipeg Jets visit the Anaheim Ducks for Game 1 Thursday, the night that also includes the opener for the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild.
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