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Blackhawks become first team to clinch playoff berth (Update: Pens clinch too)

Apr 7, 2013, 9:46 PM EDT

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 7: Andrew Shaw #65 of the Chicago Blackhawks reacts after scoring against the Nashville Predators in the first period during the NHL game on April 07, 2013 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images) Getty Images

Granted, there wasn’t much doubt after the Chicago Blackhawks got off to a 21-0-3 start this season, but now we know for sure: The Blackhawks will participate in the 2013 NHL Playoffs.

They became the first team in the NHL to earn that distinction on Sunday when they secured a 5-3 win against the Nashville Predators.

For a brief time though, it looked like the Blackhawks would have to wait at least a little longer to clinch.

Predators forward David Legwand netted his 11th goal of the season at 6:54 of the third period to give his team a 3-2 lead. However, the Blackhawks were only down for 2:43 minutes before 20-year-old rookie Brandon Saad found the back of the net for Chicago.

Then, appropriately, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews buried the game winner 55 seconds later.

Chicago is now 29-5-4 this season and don’t have much left to play for. They’ve all but won the first seed in the Western Conference, so the biggest question left is if they’ll get the Presidents’ Trophy.

All the same, the Blackhawks will want to avoid becoming complacent. They still have 10 games and about three weeks left before their season is over and they won’t want to lose any momentum in that time.

Update: The New Jersey Devils lost to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday, which means the idle Pittsburgh Penguins are the second team to secure their playoff spot.

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