By Jay Rosquites
EBC Florida Bureau
SUNRISE, FLORIDA (Eagle News) — In the fight for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Florida Panthers playoff hopes were crushed when the Philadelphia Flyers defeated the New York Rangers, before their match with the Buffalo Sabres. With the Flyers punching their ticket to the postseason, the Panthers missed the NHL playoffs for the second consecutive season.
“It’s a tough part when you have to rely on the other teams and obviously we know one hour before the game that our playoff hopes are done,” said Panthers Head Coach, Bob Boughner.
However, the heart-wrenching news of missing the postseason did not prevent fans at a packed BB&T Center from savoring the victory of the Panthers over the Sabres, 4-3 and enjoying Fan Appreciation Night in their final home game of the season.
Colton Sceviour, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Nick Bjugstad notched in the first three goals in the first period putting the team on cruise mode until the Sabres staged a comeback by scoring three in the third period. The Panthers’ Vincent Trocheck scored the game winner on an empty-netter with 1:23 left in the game, completing the season-sweep against the Sabres.
Although the Panthers missed the playoffs, a positive note to their season was goalie Roberto Luongo reaching his 1,000th NHL game in the team’s victory against the Boston Bruins on April 5. This was a significant milestone since Luongo became only the third goalie in NHL history to reach that mark. The Panthers also set a single season record of home wins with 27, after Saturday night’s win against Buffalo.
Vincent Trochek recognized their benchmark of the season. He also credited the fans in their win as a “way to thank them” on fan appreciation night.
Veteran, Radim Vrbata of the Panthers also declared that it would be his last year playing in the NHL.
“I’ll be 37 in the summer, and you just know, when you play the games, you realize how fast the game is going, and you need to let the young guys play,” Vrbata said about his retirement. “This is it. With everything how it turned out today, I’m glad I got to play this one”
Now, looking into the offseason, the Panthers have some holes to fill to strengthen their lineup.
“I know we’re all gonna sit down as a staff and management, and obviously, every team’s gonna look to improve,” said Boughner. “But, we gotta analyze what we had this year – strengths, weakness and see what holes we got to fill in the offseason.”
(Eagle News Service)