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Panthers Wrap-Up: Capitals 4, Panthers 2

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers

1 2 3 OT T
Panthers 0 1 1 0 2
Capitals 1 2 0 0 3
FLA - M. Samuelsson (13), E. Jovanovski (3)
WSH - J. Beagle (4), A. Ovechkin (37), B. Laich (16), A. Semin (21)
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Florida Panthers ended one of the longest playoff droughts in major North American sports Thursday night despite a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals, who also earned a postseason bid to complete the eight-team field for the Eastern Conference.

Both teams qualified after Buffalo lost 2-1 at Philadelphia, eliminating the Sabres.

"I couldn't care less how it happened. We're in. All you have to do is get in and anything can happen. We're really excited. If we play the way we play tonight, we're going to be alright."

- Forward Stephen Weiss on making the playoffs despite losing to Washington.
1. Trailing Despite The Efforts: The game definitely had a making of a playoff atmosphere. Both teams had their chances and Washington converted on theirs early while the Panthers could not. In the first it was Jay Beagle scoring on a rebound 5:42 into the game. Florida outshot the Capitals 10-8 after one but found themselves trailing. In the second, it was more of the same as Florida had numerous chances against Michal Neuvirth and then Braden Holtby who came in after Neuvirth got hurt about two minutes into the second. Mikael Samuelsson had the best chance to tie it at one but put it off the post. Washington would respond a little later and Alex Ovechkin would make it a two-goal game while on a two-on-one rush 7:49 into the second. Exactly two minutes later, Brooks Laich made it a three goal game for the home team, temporarily chasing Jose Theodore.

2. Mounting A Comeback: Trailing in the second, the Panthers found some life as Samuelsson atoned for his earlier miss as he fired a shot top shelf on the rush with 4:19 left in the period. The Panthers kept pouring it on for a second goal but the period ended with Florida trailing by two goals. They would whittle that lead down to one less than a minute into the third to make the game extremely exciting. Ed Jovanovski put a fluttering puck on net that fooled Holtby as Stephen Weiss provided a screen while ducking out of the way 42 seconds into the frame. After that the teams settled down.

3. A Loss And A Win As Panthers Clinch: Down a goal, Florida couldn't come all the way back. The Capitals got a late penalty, killing off the majority of the last three minutes of play of attack time for the Panthers. Florida would kill off the high sticking call but four seconds after they did, Alexander Semin took away all hope of a complete comeback as he scored on a backhand from in close to make it a 4-2 game with 1:02 left on the clock. While picking up a point or two would have been nice, the Panthers got good news from Philadelphia as the Flyers scored twice in the third period to come back to defeat the Buffalo Sabres in regulation, giving Florida their first playoff berth in 12 years. Not the way a team would want to make the playoffs, but a playoff berth is a playoff berth and the Panthers are one of eight teams in the East battling for the rights to fight for the Stanley Cup. Gathering one point against Carolina will give the Panthers the third seed in the East as the Southeast Division champs.
Memorable twitter posts from the game.

@hammerswingames: @FlaPanthers goin to the Playoffs for the first time in a decade!!! Been a long run, so happy for #Weiss especially #FlaPanthers #BelieveRED

@GrantAWish12: Judge me if you want but I just started to tear when I think about #FlaPanthers. #TrueFan

@reneeb2010: #FlaPanthers make it to the playoffs!!!!!!! Yes yes yes yes ahhhhhhhh love you @FlaPanthers

@LauraByTheSea48: I have always BELIEVED !! Proud to be a #FlaPanthers fan!

@daveabrams: It wasn't pretty, but who cares?! #FlaPanthers make the playoffs!! Big up to Philly!

Memorable fan posts from the game.

Tony Bowman: Awesome! Let's cap it with division!

Matt Cacciola: We will take care of business on Saturday, but were in the playoffs!!!! Finally

Anthony Acosta: Not bad for our first season with the overhaul eh?

Joseph Sensback: Whatever happens Saturday, thank you Panthers. You've given us excitement we haven't felt in 12 years. It's been an amazing season.

But don't just win on Saturday for us, win it for yourselves.

Russ Lavis: I may be a Canucks fan, but even I have a warm spot in my heart for what Florida has done this year. Wish 'em luck in the playoffs. Anyone can beat anyone


3. The Panthers were involved in a 3-0 game for the second game in a row. This time the scripts were switched. Florida held a 3-0 advantage on Winnipeg on Tuesday before the Jets mounted a comeback. Thursday night, Washington held a 3-0 advantage before the Panthers made a comeback attempt.

4. All four netminders found the crease during the game and for various reasons. For Washington, Michal Neuvirth got the start but left in the second period after getting injured, pressing Braden Holtby into action. For Florida, Jose Theodore got the start and left for about two minutes as Kevin Dineen pulled him after giving up a third goal in the second period in favor of Scott Clemmensen. Theodore returned to the net after a TV timeout.

12. It's been a long time coming. Despite the loss, the Panthers made the playoffs for the first time since 2000. That's 12 years of playoff futility for the franchise. All washed away.

50. Registering assists on the first two Panthers goals, Brian Campbell picked up his 49th and 50th assists of the season. That total is four less than his career high (2007-08) and sets a new single season record for Panthers defenseman, eclipsing the 49 assists Robert Svehla picked up during the 1995-96 season.

53. He wasn't brought in for his offensive scoring at this stage in his career. Getting the Panthers to within one just 42 seconds into the third period, Ed Jovanovski netted his third goal of the season. His last goal came 53 games ago on Nov. 3 against Chicago.

Brooks Laich
Really gave the Capitals a cushion with their third goal of the game from the slot in the second period. Was all over the ice.

 Goal, Assist, +2, 2 Shots, 15:07 TOI
One last game. That's all that's left of the regular season as the Panthers host the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 82 of the season on Saturday night and it has seeding implications. A single point or even better, a win, gives the Panthers the Southeast Division and the third seed. In fact, Florida can only be caught by Washington with a Capitals victory at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers and a regulation loss by the Panthers. Florida is 4-1 against the Canes this season although two of the Panthers wins have come past regulation and the Hurricanes picked up the last victory of the season series, winning 3-1 on March 21st. Carolina is led offensively by their captain Eric Staal (69 points in 80 games), Jussi Jokinen (46 points in 77 games) and Jeff Skinner (44 points in 62 games). Between the pipes, Cam Ward has posted a 29-23-13 record with a .914 save percentage and a 2.77 goals against average.

Author: Glenn Odebralski |

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