The Florida Panthers will start the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs at home after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 on Monday night.
By beating the Lightning for the second consecutive game, the Panthers clinched second place in the Central Division over Tampa Bay.
Florida’s first-round series against the defending Cup champion Lightning will start this weekend with the possibility NBC will choose Game 1 for its national broadcast on Sunday afternoon.
The NHL is expected to announce the full series schedule as early as Tuesday.
To earn home ice in the opening round, the Panthers needed to finish ahead of the Lightning in the standings at the conclusion of this two-game, season-ending series.
”I thought we did great, especially the last two games,” Anthony Duclair said. “They were chippy, emotional games headed to the playoffs. We stick up for each other, have been all year and that’s not going to change.”
Florida wrapped up its regular season with aplomb, winning the final six games as the Panthers went 5-2-1 against the Lightning.
”You want to finish as high as you can,’’ Joel Quenneville said. “Down the stretch, we were fighting for the top spot with Carolina and both teams were in the chase mode. When that ended, we wanted points in both games. The guys did a lot of good things, Driedgs was special; coming off some time off to have a game like that is just outstanding.”
The only team the Panthers did not have a winning record against in the Central this season was Carolina.
Tampa Bay ends the first season on a three-game losing streak.