SUNRISE, Fla. – The Florida Panthers are playoff bound.

Despite suffering a 3-2 loss to the New York Islanders at Amerant Bank Arena on Thursday, they officially punched their ticket to the postseason for a franchise-record fifth straight season after the Detroit Red Wings lost to the Carolina Hurricanes.

For a hungry team looking to get back to the Stanley Cup Final, this is just the start.

“It’s always nice,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said of clinching. “Last year it came before the last game of the season. Now we have a little breathing room here. We know we have a lot of work to do. We need to be a little better than the last few games, for sure.”

As for tonight’s game, it certainly had a few head-scratching moments.

Most notably, the Islanders ending up with a 6-1 edge in power plays.

Still, the Panthers know they can only control what they can control.

Just before the midway point of the first period, the Islanders thought they broke the ice when Ryan Pulock threaded a point shot through traffic past Anthony Stolarz. But after a challenge by the Panthers, the goal came off the board due to goaltender interference.

With momentum quickly shifting back in their favor, the Panthers opened the scoring moments after that successful challenge when Vladimir Tarasenko fired a shot from the bottom of the right circle that went off a defender’s stick and in to make it 1-0 at 8:13.

Tarasenko's goal makes it 1-0 in the first period.

After losing a goal earlier in the period, Pulock made sure his second was a no-doubter. Finding space in the offensive zone, he took a pass from Jean-Gabriel Pageau and unloaded a heavy shot from the right circle that clanged off the far post and in to make it 1-1 at 13:20.

Following two successful penalty kills early in the second period, the Panthers regained the lead when Barkov beat Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov with a backdoor tap-in from the left side of the cage on a sweet feed from Sam Reinhart to make it 2-1 at 6:32.

With the goal, the captain picked up his 700th point in the NHL.

Barkov taps in Reinhart pass to make it 2-1.

“It’s been fun growing with him,” Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said of his longtime teammate. “He’s the ultimate leader and role model. Following his footsteps has always been a treat for me and a treat for me to watch. You guys see what he does on the ice. Having a front-row seat to that, sometimes in on the play, is really cool and really fun.”

Getting the game squared up again, Mathew Barzal beat Stolarz with a wicked deflection from the slot to make it 2-2 at 8:43. Follow an ignored trip against Sam Bennett by officials, the Islanders took their first lead of the game when Pageau scored to make it 3-2 at 10:42.

With the Islanders making contact with Stolarz once again on Pageau's goal, the Panthers challenged for interference. This time, however, officials decided to uphold the call. The NHL’s official release didn’t go into detail on the decision other than saying there was no interference on the play.

After killing off a late double-minor penalty, the Panthers had 1:31 left in regulation to find the game-tying goal. Despite some quality looks and a valiant effort, it never came. Spending more time in the box than they’d like to, the Panthers finished 6-for-6 on the penalty kill.

Still sitting pretty at 46-22-5 with nine games remaining on their schedule, the Panthers trail the Boston Bruins by just two points for first place in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand and also hold the tiebreaker should it be needed.

And having already grinded for several months to get to this point, seeing that "X" in the standings never gets old.

“It would’ve been nice to get the win and see that X,” Ekblad said. “We knew that could’ve been a scenario. But any time you see that, you have to look back on the accomplishment of the year. Making the playoffs is no easy task.”

Now, it's just about getting their game in a good place before the games really start to matter.


“A good push at the end. Sometimes 20 minutes is the thing. That was the second period. They scored a few goals there and got the momentum. We’ll learn.” – Aleksander Barkov

“It’s never easy in this league. That team’s fighting for their lives and they got the best of us tonight.” – Aaron Ekblad

“Our penalty kill was good, but that’s momentum time.” – Paul Maurice


- Aleksander Barkov is the sixth Finnish-born player to record 700 points in the NHL.

- The Panthers are heading to the postseason for the 10th time in franchise history.

- Steven Lorentz won all six of his faceoffs.

- The Panthers led 48-28 in shot attempts at 5-on-5, per

- Evan Rodrigues and Carter Verhaeghe each recorded five hits.

- Aaron Ekblad saw 22:13 of ice time in his first game back from injury.


The playoff-bound Panthers will return to the ice to host the Detroit Red Wings for a matinee matchup at Amerant Bank Arena on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. ET.

For tickets, click HERE.

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