ATLANTA - The Panthers earned the win they had to have. In the end, it still wasn't enough to keep Florida in the playoff chase.
Despite coming from behind to beat the Atlanta Thrashers 3-2 on Thursday night, the Panthers were eliminated from the post-season race. David Booth scored with 4:25 left in the third period to lift Florida to victory, but the Panthers (91 points) needed more help from around the NHL to stay in the Eastern Conference post-season mix.
They didn't get it.
"You look back for one point throughout the year - that's hard to take," Booth said.
The Rangers' 2-1 victory against Philadelphia gave New York (93 points) a playoff spot, and the Montreal Canadiens (93) locked up a spot when they earned a point in a 5-4 overtime loss to Boston.
Florida, New York and Montreal all have a game left, but the Canadiens and Rangers hold the tiebreakers with Florida.
"You don't lose it (playoff chance) in the last few games. It's the whole course of the season. It's about consistency," Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun said.
Nathan Horton and Cory Stillman also scored for Florida.
"It's really important that we at least gave ourselves a chance (by winning this game). We were able to do that," Horton said.
"Regardless of what happened tonight I am very proud of how we played and showed up tonight," said Florida coach Peter DeBoer.
Defenceman Zach Bogosian scored twice for Atlanta.
"They were desperate and they came out on top. It's obviously not what we wanted," the 18-year-old rookie said.
The Panthers tied it at 2 when Stillman tipped in a shot by Gregory Campbell early in the third period.
Booth scored his 29th goal by knocking in his own rebound past Atlanta goaltender Johan Hedberg. Stephen Weiss had drew an assist, his second of the game.
Stillman's 17th goal came 50 seconds after Bogosian scored a short-handed goal to give Atlanta a 2-1 lead. Bogosian shot the puck over the left shoulder of Vokoun from 15 feet out after a pass from Marty Reasoner for his ninth of the season.
"He's playing real well," Atlanta's leading scorer and captain Ilya Kovalchuk said of Bogosian. "He's got some confidence. He's skating with the puck, and he knows how to skate, so he'll be scary good in a couple of years."
The Panthers tied it at 1 with 3:20 remaining in the second period on a power play goal by Horton, his 22nd. The play was reviewed by officials and ruled a goal after video showed the shot hit high inside the net past Hedberg and bounced out.
The Thrashers had taken a 1-0 lead at 9:17 of the opening period when Bogosian scored on a power-play, beating Vokoun with a 20-foot shot from the point.
Notes: The Thrashers had gone 0-for-21 on power plays before Bogosian scored his first goal. ... The Thrashers had a two-man advantage for two minutes at 4:58 of the opening period and failed to score, getting off five shots, three by Ilya Kovalchuk. ... Florida had a two-man advantage for 28 seconds later in the period and failed to score. Florida won the season series 3-2-1.