The Florida Panthers have one game remaining but they are now just playing for seeding as they officially clinched a spot in the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs on Tuesday night.
By virtue of both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres losing on Tuesday, the Panthers will be headed to the playoffs for a third consecutive season for the first time in franchise history.
Florida (92 points) continue to hold a one-point lead on the New York Islanders (91) for the top wild card spot with the Penguins (90) two points back with one game remaining for all three.
Because the Panthers own the top tiebreaker against the Penguins, Pittsburgh cannot catch them.
The Penguins or the Islanders will get the other wild card spot.
Buffalo was eliminated from postseason consideration with its loss to the Devils on Tuesday.
The Panthers will play host to Carolina on Thursday night and can claim the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and a first-round date with either those same Hurricanes or New Jersey in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a win or an Islanders regulation loss Wednesday.
By beating Detroit on Tuesday night, Carolina kept its one-point lead on the Devils in the race for the Metropolitan Division.
On Monday night, the Panthers earned a point in a 2-1 overtime loss to the visiting Maple Leafs.
Florida got help that night as the Islanders lost 5-2 to the underdog Capitals and got even more help Tuesday as Pittsburgh was beaten at home by the tanking Chicago Blackhawks by the same brutal score.
Chicago was not only playing in its second consecutive game after losing at home to the Wild on Monday night, but came into the game with losses in 11 of its past 12.
Coming into the final two games, the Penguins and Islanders had the easiest two remaining schedules in the entire league yet both lost the first of their final two games.
The Islanders will play host to the Canadiens on Wednesday night; Pittsburgh will visit Columbus on Thursday.
The Panthers will be participating in postseason hockey for the fourth consecutive season — although they did not advance out of the 2020 qualifying round in Toronto.
— x – Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) April 12, 2023
Florida lost in the opening round to Tampa Bay in 2021.
Last year, the Panthers won their first playoff series since 1996 by beating the Capitals in 6. Florida was then swept out of the second round by the Lightning.
Florida has only advanced to the playoffs in consecutive years twice in its history: 1996-97 and 2021-22. The team has never been to the playoffs in three straight seasons before now.
PANTHERS ON DECK
CAROLINA HURRICANES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- This season (Series tied 1-1): Florida 3, Carolina 2 (Nov. 9); Carolina 4, Florida 0 (Dec. 30)
- All-time regular season series: Carolina leads 70-46-10, 11 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers — First Round of Stanley Cup Playoffs, Game 1 (Time, Opponent TBD)