SUNRISE — With a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, the Florida Panthers secured their fate as the first-round opponent of the record-breaking Boston Bruins.
They had their chance to control their own fate coming into the night one point behind the New York Islanders for the top wild card spot to take on the Metropolitan Division champion.
The Hurricanes secured that title with the win over Florida.
But instead, Florida fell 6-4 to Carolina and will have to take on the Boston team that set NHL records for the most wins (65) and standings points (135) in a single season.
It is a daunting task ahead that the Panthers can only blame themselves for.
”We definitely made some mistakes that aren’t going to be acceptable in the playoffs,” Matthew Tkachuk said.
”We had to be patient in a game like that and it kind of got away from us for a few shifts and they capitalized.”
Florida lulled itself to sleep early on and the Hurricanes jumped out to a two-goal lead by the time the second period was all said and done.
The Panthers had just 13 scoring chances to Carolina’s 24, eight high-danger chances to their 15 and 16 shots to the Hurricanes’ 25 through the first 40 minutes of play.
But they showed signs of life as they tried to climb back into the game in the third.
Sasha Barkov set the tone early with a rifle of a wrist shot from the face-off circle just 1:14 into the frame.
Ryan Lomberg joined in on the fun two minutes later to tie the game up with a long-range shot of his own.
Then they lost it for a bit.
Seconds after Matthew Tkachuk appeared to be tripped on a breakaway by Shayne Gostisbehere, Burns scored his second of the game.
Jesper Fast scored 20 seconds after Burns’ goal to put Carolina up by two goals with 13:22 to go.
The FLA Live Arena crowd thought there was a missed call before that sequence of events but that was not the case.
Gostisbehere played the puck with the stick and challenged Tkachuk with his body as he was losing his balance to snuff out a high-danger chance that could have very well given the Panthers the lead.
Even when the game’s hero on the defensive end sank the empty-netter, the Panthers did not go down quietly.
Anthony Duclair fired a slap shot from deep past Frederik Andersen to bring the Panthers back within two goals with 2:02 to go.
It was his first since Feb. 28 and it could not have come at a better time.
”It was obviously nice to see that one go in and hopefully the floodgates are open here,” he said.
Carter Verhaeghe cashed in on a close-range wrist shot — his 42nd of the year — to make it a one-goal game with 1:24 but that was where their luck ended.
Sebastian Aho cashed in on an empty-netter to secure the win for Carolina.
GOALS OF THE GAME
- Hurricanes 1, Panthers 0 (8:21, 1st): Brent Burns beat Alex Lyon with a blast of a slap shot to open up the scoring.
- Hurricanes 2, Panthers 0 (1:21, 2nd): Jesperi Kotkaniemi sent a floater from the slot past Lyon to extend Carolina’s lead.
- Hurricanes 2, Panthers 1 (1:14, 3rd): Sasha Barkov fired a wrist shot from the face-off circle past Frederik Andersen to give Florida some life.
- Panthers 2, Hurricanes 2 (3:33, 3rd): Ryan Lomberg fired a snap shot off a feed from Radko Gudas to tie the game.
- Hurricanes 3, Panthers 2 (6:07, 3rd): Burns scored his second of the game with a wrist shot.
- Hurricanes 4, Panthers 2 (6:28, 3rd): Jesper Fast scored Carolina’s second goal in 21 seconds on the rush.
- Hurricanes 5, Panthers 2 (17:20, 3rd): Shayne Gostisbehere ENG
- Hurricanes 5, Panthers 3 (17:58, 3rd): Anthony Duclair scored on a slap shot from long range.
- Hurricanes 5, Panthers 4 (18:36, 3rd): Carter Verhaeghe scored on a wrist shot from in close.
- Hurricanes 6, Panthers 4 (19:00, 3rd): Sebastian Aho ENG
COLBY’S 3 STARS OF THE GAME
1. Brent Burns, Carolina
2. Shayne Gostisbehere, Carolina
3. Radko Gudas, Florida
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
- GAME 1
- When: Monday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: Boston Garden
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN/ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM/WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Season Series (Tied 2-2): @Boston 5, Florida 3 (Oct. 17); @Florida 5, Boston 2 (Nov. 23); @Boston 7, Florida 3 (Dec. 19); @Florida 4, Boston 3 OT (Jan. 28)
- Last season: Boston won 2-1
- All-time regular season series: Boston leads 60-38-6, 6 ties
- Playoff History (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 4-2, 1996 (first round)
- First Round Schedule — Game 1: Monday, 7:30 (ESPN); Game 2: at Boston, Wednesday, 7:30 (ESPN); Game 3: at Florida, Friday, 7:30 (TNT); Game 4: at Florida, Sunday, April 23, 3:30 (TNT); Game 5*: at Boston, Wednesday, April 26; Game 6*: at Florida, Friday, April 28; Game 7*: at Boston, Sunday, April 30.