For most, it had been a foregone conclusion in recent weeks.
The Nashville Predators made it official Wednesday, though. They clinched a spot in the 2012 NHL playoffs, courtesy of the Anaheim Ducks’ 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks.
Nashville now knows it will be in the postseason for the seventh time in the last eight seasons. Only four others — Detroit, San Jose, Philadelphia and New Jersey — figure to be able to make the same claim when the 2011-12 regular season concludes in a little more than a week.
The Predators had a chance to lock up a playoff berth on their own Tuesday when they played at St. Louis. A 3-0 loss to the Blues, who have the NHL’s best record, foiled that.
There were more opportunities Wednesday. Nashville needed only Los Angeles, Dallas or San Jose to lose in regulation or for two of the three to lose in overtime or a shootout.
The Kings won 3-0 at Calgary and the Stars won 3-1 at Edmonton.
That left San Jose, which played at Anaheim in the next-to-last of the day’s six games to be decided. The score was 1-1 at the start of the third period, but Teemu Selanne put Anaheim ahead to stay with 14:38 to play, and Corey Perry added an empty-net goal in the final 10 seconds.
The defeat cost the Sharks first place in the Pacific Division and dropped them to seventh in the Western Conference standings.
Nashville is currently fifth, one point behind Detroit.
The Predators’ next game is Friday at Detroit (6:30 p.m., Fox Sports-Tennessee) in what looks like a critical contest for seeding. The two seem likely to face one another in the opening round of the playoffs and whichever finishes higher in the standings will have home-ice advantage for that series.