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game recap

Panthers wrap up historic season with victory

Purcell's two points, Luongo's 25 saves help Atlantic champs defeat Carolina

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers used a quick start to wrap up the best regular season in their history with a victory at BB&T Center on Saturday.

Teddy Purcell had a goal and an assist when the Panthers scored three times in the opening 7:40, and the Atlantic Division champions defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 in the season finale.

The Panthers (47-26-9), whose 47 victories and 103 points are the most in their history, will face the New York Rangers or New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It was a great year, there's no doubt," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "To finish the season with 103 points, if I would have told you that at training camp, I think you would have laughed. I thought the season went real well for our team. For the most part, we performed real good. But we'll worry about that in the summer and we've got to move forward and keep playing real good now."

Goalie Roberto Luongo made 25 saves for his 35th win, matching the Panthers single-season record he set in 2005-06.

Video: CAR@FLA: Hudler feeds Purcell for game's first goal

Jussi Jokinen had a goal and an assist to reach 60 points for the first time since the 2009-10 season, Aaron Ekblad and Jonathan Huberdeau scored, and Jiri Hudler had two assists for Florida.

Jaromir Jagr, whose 66 points led the Panthers, and Aleksander Barkov each had an assist. Barkov had five goals and eight assists during his NHL career-high nine-game point streak.

Reilly Smith scored into an empty net with 5.5 seconds left for his 25th goal of the season. Florida had four 25-goal scorers, the most in its history.

Video: CAR@FLA: Jokinen's gorgeous goal from the left circle

Huberdeau's goal was his 20th, giving the Panthers five 20-goal scorers for the first time; the others were Barkov (28), Jagr (27), Vincent Trocheck (25) and Smith.

"I'm happy about it," Smith said. "It took five seconds left in the season and no goalie in net to get it, but I'll keep it. It feels good. Can't give enough credit to my linemates this year. They've been awesome. They've been feeding me a ton."

Derek MacKenzie, back after missing a game because of a foot injury, appeared to score in the third period when the Panthers were leading 4-1, but the goal was disallowed after Carolina challenged that the play was offside.

Video: CAR@FLA: Ekblad nets Panthers' third goal of the 1st

Elias Lindholm and Jordan Staal each had a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes (35-31-16), who will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season. Staal reached 20 goals for the first time since 2011-12.

"When you're at a number, you want to round it up," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "At 29, you want to get to 30; at 19, you want 20. Anytime you can do that, it's a good milestone. That was a real good line."

Carolina goalie Eddie Lack made 16 saves.

Video: CAR@FLA: Jokinen's gorgeous goal from the left circle

The Panthers completed their second consecutive three-game season sweep of the Hurricanes. They won two games at PNC Arena, 4-1 on Oct. 10 and 2-0 on Dec. 19.

Florida was coming off a 3-1 loss against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday after clinching the division two nights earlier.

After Luongo made a glove save against Staal on a 2-on-1 in the first minute, Purcell opened the scoring at 1:39, beating Lack when he redirected Hudler's diagonal pass after a turnover in the neutral zone.

"[Luongo] made some great saves," Gallant said. "Right off the bat, at the start of the game, he made an unbelievable save and he made three or four real good saves after that. I didn't want him to get tested that much, but we fell asleep a little bit."

Video: CAR@FLA: Staal deflects PPG past Luongo in the 3rd

Jokinen made it 2-0 at 3:58 after he was sent on a 2-on-1 with a backhand pass from Nick Bjugstad from inside the Florida blue line. Jokinen beat Lack with a wrist shot high to the glove side.

Ekblad scored to give Florida a 3-0 lead after he took a pass from Hudler and skated in alone before beating Lack with a slap shot from between the circles.

Huberdeau made it 4-0 at 4:50 of the second period when he redirected a backhand feed across the front of the net from Jagr.

"I figured we'd play a good game at home coming out, but when we got up 3-0, 4-0, it sort of tailed off," Gallant said. "We made some mistakes trying to get too fancy, but overall I'm real pleased that nobody got hurt and I thought the guys played real well."

Video: CAR@FLA: Barkov, Jagr and Hubereau connect for goal

Lindholm got Carolina on the board at 10:47 of the second.

After Staal scored to cut Florida'a lead to 4-2 with a power-play goal at 4:38 of the third period, he had a shorthanded breakaway, but Luongo made a spectacular glove save on his wrist shot.

Carolina center Jeff Skinner later hit the post with a wrist shot that trickled between Luongo's body and his left arm.

"I think the game got a little loose at times, but [Luongo] made some big saves obviously," Peters said. "He made a save on a 2-on-1 on the opening shift on [Staal], made a save on the breakaway on Jordan, made a save on Skinner there. So he made some big saves. It would have been nice to have gotten it to one and maybe tried to do some damage."

Video: CAR@FLA: Luongo makes big glove save on breakaway

Florida defenseman Brian Campbell was honored in a pregame ceremony for playing his 1,000th NHL game Tuesday in a 4-1 victory against the Montreal Canadiens.

The Panthers will play the Rangers in the Eastern Conference First Round if the Islanders defeat the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday in a rescheduled game; if the Flyers win, Florida will face the Islanders.

"It's going to be fun," Gallant said about the playoffs. "It's going to be starting new. We're looking forward to it. Had a great regular season, but that's in the past. We've got to move forward and get ready for our opponent, whoever it's going to be, and see what happens."

Video: Panthers score early and often in 5-2 win

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