Panthers clinch spot in Stanley Cup Playoffs

SUNRISE — One season removed from playing in the Stanley Cup Final, the Florida Panthers officially get another chance to compete for the cup, as they clinched their spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday.


Despite losing in regulation 3-2 to the New York Islanders, the Panthers punched their ticket with some outside help.


The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Detroit Red Wings in regulation — about 30 minutes after Florida’s game ended. Both the Hurricanes and Panthers clinched a playoff spot because of the result.


“It would have been nice to get the win and see that ‘x’ (playoff teams get an “x” in the standings) obviously. That could have been a scenario,” Aaron Ekblad said. “Anytime you see that you have to look back on the accomplishment of the year… The goal is to finish as high as we possibly can and secure home ice advantage for the playoffs.”


The Panthers have made the postseason five consecutive years (2019-20 play-in accounted for), four of those coming after Bill Zito took over as general manager ahead of the 2020-21 season. 


Florida has qualified for the playoffs 10 times since their inaugural season in 1993.


As for who they’ll play in round one, they may not know who that will be until the final week of the season, as numerous teams are within just a few points of first place in the league. 


Last season, the Panthers made the playoffs by just one point after  going on a 6-0-1 run at the end of the regular season. 


“It’s always nice (to clinch). Last year it came before the last game of the season, so now we have a little breathing room here,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. “Of course we know we have a lot of work to do and we need to be a little better. Better than the last few games for sure.”


The NHL regular season will conclude on April 18 and the playoffs are set to begin on April 20.


Florida’s remaining schedule: Detroit, @Toronto, @Montréal, @Ottawa @Boston, Ottawa, Columbus, Buffalo, Toronto

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