The Carolina Hurricanes had a chance to clinch the Southeast Division title. Instead, their loss relegated them to scoreboard watching this weekend, and enabled Philadelphia and Ottawa to secure playoff berths.
Nathan Horton and Radek Dvorak each had a goal and an assist and Florida got its first road victory against Carolina since 2002 with a 4-3 win Friday night. Jay Bouwmeester and Steve Montador scored in an 88-second span of the first period for the Panthers, who had lost 13 straight on the Hurricanes' home ice.
Carolina had a five-point division lead with six games left, but lost three of its last four. The Hurricanes would have clinched the division with a victory in their regular-season finale. Now, they need Florida to beat Washington in regulation on Saturday night. If the Capitals win or merely go to overtime, they will take the division title and the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.
"It feels disgusting. We just needed to win two of our last four, and we go 1-3," left wing Ray Whitney said. "How we lost this one, not only is it frustrating and it hurts, (but) you hate to sit back and hope you're going to get help. ... We've got to hope (the Panthers) do the same job tomorrow night as they (did against Carolina). I doubt they will. Washington's taking care of their business like it means something, and it's just frustrating that we let this one slip away."
The Senators, who lost 2-1 at home to Boston, and the Flyers, who beat New Jersey 3-0, both clinched posteason spots thanks to the Hurricanes' loss. The Bruins also got in with their win.
In the other NHL games Friday night, it was: the New York Islanders 4, the New York Rangers 3 in a shootout; Phoenix 4, Dallas 2; and Chicago 3, Nashville 1.
Eric Staal, Sergei Samsonov and Trevor Letowski each scored for the Hurricanes, who outshot Florida 46-17 and were penalty-free while the Panthers were whistled for nine.
"It's tough any time you get close to 50 shots on their goalie and still (don't) come away with enough to win," Staal said. "There were lots of chances, obviously. A ton of shots. A few lights-out saves. We just didn't capitalize enough and we were one short."
At Ottawa, Tim Thomas came within 8:14 of recording his third straight shutout against the Senators and Zdeno Chara scored against his former team. Phil Kessel also scored for the Bruins, who drew even with Ottawa for sixth overall in the Eastern Conference with 94 points.
"We knew what was at stake and we approached it that way," Chara said. "We just played every shift very, very hard and it was a great team effort."
The Senators completed their regular-season schedule, clinching a playoff spot midway through the third period - despite trailing 2-0 - when Carolina lost.
"There was just kind of chatter on the bench and we could hear a few guys talking about it," Ottawa center Jason Spezza said.
The result out of Raleigh was also good news for the Bruins.
"Halfway through the third we found out that we were in if we won the game or at least got a point," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "It was good to know and obviously gave us a bit of breathing room and helped us finish the game on a strong note."
The Senators can finish anywhere from sixth to eighth, and will open the playoffs on the road against either Pittsburgh, Montreal, Carolina or Washington.
The Bruins, who close the regular season Saturday night against Buffalo, can finish as high as fifth or as low as eighth, and could open the first round on the road against any playoff team in the East other than Ottawa or Philadelphia.
At Philadelphia, Martin Biron stopped all 22 shots for his 22nd career shutout, fourth this season, to lead the Flyers.
"I don't think I've ever seen a team play a better game that was so crucial," said chairman Ed Snider, who founded the Flyers. "They weren't afraid, they weren't nervous. They just took it to New Jersey."
The Flyers' remarkable turnaround from the worst team in the NHL last season to the Eastern Conference playoffs was completed when Carolina lost shortly after Philadelphia's win.
R.J. Umberger scored his 13th goal of the season only 5:44 into the game, and Scottie Upshall and Joffrey Lupul scored 37 seconds apart in the third. The Flyers finish the season Sunday against Pittsburgh and could finish as high as the No. 6 seed.
"If we play like this, we're going to be very, very dangerous," Umberger said.
Richard Park scored a short-handed goal in the second period and then added the decisive tally in the shootout for the visiting Islanders.
Jaromir Jagr got the Rangers even at 3 just 4:20 into the third period, with his third goal in two games.
Wade Dubielewicz made 48 saves for the Islanders, and Henrik Lundqvist stopped 29 shots for the Rangers before the shootout.
Kyle Okposo scored his second NHL goal in the first period, and Miroslav Satan netted his 16th of the season in the second for the Islanders. Dan Girardi and Nigel Dawes both scored tying goals in the second period for the Rangers.
NHL rookie scoring leader Patrick Kane recorded his 20th goal and had an assist, and Patrick Lalime made 29 saves to lead Chicago.
Rookies Jonathan Toews and Adam Burish also scored for the Blackhawks, who won their fourth straight.
Rich Peverley scored for Nasvhille, which lost for the first time in regulation following a 5-0-1 stretch. The loss locked the Predators into eighth place and the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Rookie Daniel Carcillo had three goals for his first career hat trick, rookie Martin Hanzal notched the tiebreaking goal in the second period, and Phoenix snapped a three-game losing streak.
Trevor Daley had a goal and Philippe Boucher scored short-handed for Dallas, 3-8-2 in its last 13 games.
Mikael Tellqvist made 30 saves for the Coyotes, 2-7-1 in their last 10.