Panthers survive visit from Bruins to keep playoff hopes alive
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — The Florida Panthers are still alive for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They’re going to need some help, though.
Jared McCann scored with 5:37 left and Roberto Luongo got the win in his 1,000th career game, helping the Panthers stay in contention with a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
The Panthers trail the Philadelphia Flyers by four points for the final Eastern Conference wild card and have two games remaining, including a matchup Sunday night with Boston. Florida needs to win both games and have the Flyers lose to the New York Rangers in regulation Saturday.
“It would be nice to control our own fate, but we don’t have that luxury,” coach Bob Boughner said. “Who knows what’s going to happen, but we know we have a job to do. Let’s just hope that we are in a situation Saturday when the puck drops we’ve got a chance to make the playoffs.”
The Panthers were also chasing the Devils and Blue Jackets, but both teams clinched playoff spots with victories Thursday.
The 39-year-old Luongo became the third goalie to reach the 1,000-game mark, joining Hall of Famers Martin Brodeur (1,266) and Patrick Roy (1,029). Luongo is the 322nd player to reach the milestone overall. He stopped 26 shots Thursday.
“It wasn’t easy. I was feeling a little bit sluggish today for some reason, but tell you what, the boys probably played their best game of the year,” Luongo said. “That’s the best gift the boys could have given me.”
Aleksander Barkov scored his 100th career goal, and Florida’s Frank Vatrano scored a goal against his former team.
Barkov left the game with 6:51 left in the third period with an apparent upper-body injury after he was checked hard into the boards by Colby Cave. McCann took his spot on the top line and was able to make an impact.
“I was ready to go,” McCann said. “I look for those opportunities every day. I was able to step up.”
There wasn’t an update on Barkov after the game.
“I know the doctors are back there checking him out, so I don’t have anything as of now. It didn’t look great when he was going off the ice, to be honest,” Boughner said.
Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato scored for the Bruins. Tuukka Rask stopped 32 shots.
“Yeah, a tough start,” Rask said. “They came to play, that’s not a surprise to anybody. They’re fighting for their lives and need every point they can get. You have to be ready for that and we weren’t.”
The Bruins have lost three straight, their longest losing streak since a four-game skid from November 8-15.
“You don’t want to go into the playoffs limping,” Rask said. “You want to go in full stride and that’s something we have to fix the last two games.”
Boston remains tied with Tampa Bay for the lead in the Atlantic Division, but Tampa owns the tiebreaker. Each team has two games left.
“We’ve got one out of six points on this trip,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “That’s what happens in this league, I don’t care what teams you play. A bad formula to play from behind. Guys have to be ready to go when the puck drops. That’s something we have to look to correct.”
McCann tipped in the winner off Mike Matheson’s shot from the left side.
The Bruins tied it at 2 on Heinen’s goal 2:11 into the second period. After a defensive turnover, David Krejci passed across to Heinen, who beat Luongo on the stick side.
Trailing 2-0, the Bruins closed to 2-1 on a power-play goal by Donato, who corralled a bouncing puck in front and swept it behind Luongo with 4:41 left in the first.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead on Barkov’s goal. Evgenii Dadonov made a nice pass from the right side to Barkov, who tucked the puck into the corner of the net at 7:42.
The Panthers went ahead 2-0 after Vatrano, acquired by the Panthers in a trade with Boston on Feb. 22, poked in a rebound at 9:34.
NOTES: Bruins F Brad Marchand played in his 600th NHL game. … Donato has eight points in his first 10 NHL games. … A video tribute to Luongo’s 1,000-game mark, midway through the first period, drew a standing ovation, including from Bruins players.
Bruins: Hosts Ottawa on Saturday night.
Panthers: Hosts Buffalo on Saturday night.