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Panthers beat Hurricanes, prevent clinching

by John Kreiser

Nathan Horton and Radek Dvorak each had a goal and an assist as Florida claimed its first victory in Carolina since 2002 by beating the Hurricanes 4-3, preventing them from clinching the Southeast Division.
WATCH: Highlights from the Cats' win
The Florida Panthers spoiled Carolina’s clinching party on Friday night. The Hurricanes hope they can do the same thing to the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

To clinch the Southeast Division title, the Hurricanes needed only to beat the Panthers, who had lost their last 13 visits to the RBC Center. But despite outshooting the Panthers 46-17, the ’Canes went home with a 4-3 loss in their regular-season finale that left them even with Washington atop the division at 92 points. If the Capitals get a point in their game with the Panthers on Saturday night in Washington, they’ll pass the Hurricanes and win the division.

“Everybody’s sick about it,” Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said of the loss, the Hurricanes’ first to Florida at home since Dec. 6, 2002. “There’s nothing positive about it.”

The Hurricanes did a lot of things right. They dominated play all night, earning nine power plays while not giving the Panthers even one. They outshot Florida 11-1 in the third period and took 85 shots at Florida’s goal while allowing 33.

They just didn’t win.

The backbreaker came with the second period winding down and the Hurricanes trailing 3-2 but on a power play — only to have Florida’s Radek Dvorak score a shorthanded goal with 12 seconds remaining.

“That one was tough to take,” Laviolette said.

Sergei Samsonov got the Hurricanes within one by scoring a power-play goal with 12:01 remaining. But Carolina was unable to get the tying goal past Craig Anderson, who stopped 26 of 28 shots in the final two periods. Anderson came on after Tomas Vokoun left with back spasms following a busy first period in which he stopped 17 of 18 shots.

''It's tough any time you get close to 50 shots on their goalie and still (don't) come away with enough to win,'' Carolina’s Eric 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.''

The win was a little balm for the Panthers, who haven’t made the playoff since 2000.

''We're saving some face with the season,'' defenseman Steve Montador said. ''We're doing the best we can, in spite of the fact (that) we're not in the playoffs. These games are crucial for other teams, and not necessarily for our playoff picture, but certainly these last two games, we're excited about playing because we're going to have a say in what's to come.

''If you're not dealing with your own fate, it's nice to have a say in somebody else's.”

The game started well for Carolina, which took a 1-0 lead when Trevor Letowski stuffed a shot through Vokoun’s pads at 7:25. But Jay Bouwmeester and Montador scored in a 1:28 span to put the Panthers ahead 2-1 after one period.

Nathan Horton made it 3-1 before Staal’s power-play goal at 14:39 of the middle period cut the deficit to 3-2. But Dvorak’s goal was more than Carolina could overcome, despite a third-period barrage.

"We had chances in the third," Carolina defenseman Glen Wesley said. "We faced adversity all year, and unfortunately, we got the one (goal), but we didn't get the second one that we wanted."

Instead of spending the weekend getting ready for the playoffs, Carolina can only sit and watch. The only way the Hurricanes win the division is for the Capitals to lose in regulation.

"We control everything now," Horton said. "They're going to be watching and wondering what we're doing."

It could be a long summer for the Hurricanes, who had a five-point lead with six games remaining, only to lose three of four down the stretch.

"It feels disgusting. We just needed to win two of our last four, and we go 1-3," forward 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."

Flyers 3, Devils 0 | Video
Twelve months after the worst season in franchise history, the Flyers are headed back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Martin Biron stopped 22 shots and Philadelphia locked up the berth when Carolina lost to Florida.

R.J. Umberger scored his 13th goal of the season 5:44 into the game, and Scottie Upshall and Joffrey Lupul scored 37 seconds apart in the third. Biron, who has never played a postseason game, recorded his 22nd career shutout.

The Flyers dominated all night — at one point they had outshot the Devils 30-9.

''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 only reason the final score wasn’t more lopsided was New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur, who made 33 saves and stood on his head for most of the night — until goals by Upshall at 11:16 of the third period and Lupul at 11:53 broke the game open and sent Brodeur to the bench for the rest of the night.

''This was as good as we played all year,'' second-year coach John Stevens said.

One season after finishing last in the NHL and winning only 22 games, the Flyers are eighth in the Eastern Conference with 93 points and one game remaining — at home against Pittsburgh on Sunday. They could finish as high as sixth if they win and Boston loses to Buffalo on Saturday.

The Devils are fourth in the East and need a point against the New York Rangers on Sunday to assure themselves of starting their first-round series at home. They won’t get it if they play the way they did against the Flyers.

“It was a total lack of commitment,” coach Brent Sutter said. “If it weren’t for Marty, it would have been 10-0. Outside of our goaltender, we had a lot of bad players tonight — no sense of passion at all.''

The game had a playoff feel from the before the first faceoff. The fans roared when Lauren Hart, daughter of longtime former Flyers broadcaster Gene Hart, sang ''God Bless America,'' alternating lyrics with Kate Smith, who was on a video image. Smith's rendition of the song has been a rallying anthem for the Flyers since the mid 1970s.

''They were there early, they were loud, from start to finish, it was great. A lot of fun,'' Umberger said.

Blackhawks 3, Predators 1 | Video
The Hawks won’t be going to the playoffs, but they gave a sellout crowd at the United Center something to look forward to next season. Two of their young stars, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, scored in a three-goal first period as Chicago won its fourth in a row.

After Randy Peverley opened the scoring 2:48 into the game, Toews banged in a rebound at 4:52 for his 24th of the season, Adam Burish scored a shorthanded goal at 7:11 and Kane got his 20th of the season at 11:09 when Patrick Sharp’s pass hit him and went into the net.

The Predators, who clinched a playoff berth and eliminated Chicago on Thursday, are locked into eighth place in the West and will play Detroit in the first round. Coach Barry Trotz gave several regulars the night off in Nashville’s season finale.

"Tonight was a tough game to play," said goalie Chris Mason, who gave up all three goals on 12 shots before rookie Pekka Rinne took over midway through the second period. "It didn't mean anything to either team, but I think we put on a good show. The Blackhawks have a lot of energy and come out hard in the first period. We tried to stay with them, but we really didn't."

The Hawks, who are three points behind Nashville with just one game to play, were left to lament what could have been.

"We've been playing very good hockey of late, and it's a shame a point here and there, we'd still be playing next week," goaltender Patrick Lalime said after stopping 29 shots. "The big story here are the fans coming back. It's great to play in front of a full house."

Islanders 4, Rangers 3, SO | Video
The Islanders’ disappointing, injury-filled season came to an end on a happy note, as they survived a 51-shot barrage by the Rangers and won when Richard Park beat Henrik Lundqvist in a shootout.

Park, who had beaten Lundqvist for a rare 3-on-5 shorthanded goal to give the Islanders a 3-2 lead late in the second period, beat him again with a high wrist shot in the fourth round of the shootout. Wade Dubielewicz then stopped Petr Prucha’s backhander for the win.

The Islanders won despite dressing a lineup that had only a handful of players who were there on opening night. But putting a crimp in the Rangers’ hopes for home ice in the first round of the playoffs wasn’t much consolation for a season that fell apart in the final six weeks.

''It's always nice to win, but I don't think it overshadows the fact that there is a lot of disappointment and sadness in our locker room,'' Park said. ''We had really high expectations throughout the whole year.

''It's a little bit of a Band-Aid over the wound, but the hurt is still there.''

The one point gave the Rangers 96, one behind the Devils. They finish their season Sunday at New Jersey. They need a regulation win to pass the Devils and finish fourth, which would give them the home-ice edge in an opening-round series against New Jersey.

''We still have a chance,'' goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. ''Obviously we wanted to finish with a win at home, but they worked hard. It's going to be fun on Sunday.''

A victory would also complete an eight-game series sweep against the Devils.

''It's kind of the way when they drew up the conference with all divisional games at the end,'' Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan said. ''This is what they wanted.

There are few meaningless games on an NHL schedule anymore. It goes down to the 82nd game.''

The Islanders never trailed, but each time they went ahead, the Rangers managed to tie the game. Jaromir Jagr’s rocket past Dubielewicz on a 3-on-1 break at 4:20 of third period made it 3-3.

Despite having been eliminated from the playoffs, the Islanders played like a team battling for a playoff berth, rather than one waiting to see what will happen in Monday’s draft lottery — the Isles are one of five teams that can get the No. 1 overall pick.

''We always hear that there is nothing to play for. I strongly disagree with that,'' coach Ted Nolan said. ''We always have something to play for. ... To just go through the motions isn't the right thing to do, and we never did that, which is a great thing.''

Coyotes 4, Stars 2 | Video
Happily for the Stars, they won’t have to see Daniel Carcillo in the playoffs. The Phoenix rookie capped his first NHL hat trick by scoring into an empty net as the Coyotes won at Dallas.

"It's a pretty special night, and I haven't had one in a couple of years since Juniors," said Carcillo, who has six of his 11 goals against Dallas. "First career hat trick in the NHL, its a pretty good feeling."

Another rookie, Martin Hanzal, broke a 2-2 tie at 13:13 of the second period when he took a long lead pass from Zbynek Michalek and beat Dallas goalie Marty Turco on a breakaway for his eighth goal of the season.

Mikael Tellqvist made 30 saves for the Coyotes, 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. Phoenix will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season, but the Coyotes took the season series from the Stars, winning five of eight games.

The loss assured the Stars of finishing fifth in the West. They will open the playoffs at Anaheim next week after hosting San Jose on Sunday.

"We aren't real happy with this effort tonight," captain Brenden Morrow said. "We were shorthanded tonight and it’s game No. 81, but we better find something in our tank because that's not going to work. We should all know how to prepare ourselves. We need to find something."

Carcillo, the NHL leader with 324 penalty minutes, opened the scoring at 2:51 of the opening period on a wrist shot from the slot. Trevor Daley tied it at 18:10, skating to the net and converting Steve Ott's centering pass for his fifth of the season.

Carcillo gave Phoenix a 2-1 lead at 3:39 of the second period, taking a lead pass from Steven Reinprecht and beating Turco on a power-play breakaway. ''He plays hard all the time and loves to compete,'' Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said of Carcillo. ''All in all, he's had a tremendous year.''

Philippe Boucher’s first goal since last Oct. 31 tied it 2-2 at 4:40.

Boucher, who missed much of the season with injuries, said playing games like this can be difficult.

“It’s a little harder,” he said. “You know how revved up you will be next week. But you can’t be scared — you can’t play halfway. That’s how you get hurt.”

Material from wire services and team broadcast and online media was used in this report.

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