By Dave Joseph and wire reports for floridapanthers.com
The clock was ticking Tuesday evening at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia when David Booth sent a desperate backhander toward goalie Martin Biron with 10 seconds remaining in regulation.
Biron suffocated the puck between his pads, ending the Panthers hopes of leaving the city with a victory and any points.
Hoping to make their first post-season appearance in seven seasons, the Panthers lost Tuesday to the Flyers 2-1 after goalie Tomas Vokoun surrendered the game-winning goal to Jeff Carter at 7:32 of the third period.
The Panthers loss, coupled with the Rangers 3-1 victory over the Canadiens, drops the Panthers to ninth in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the eighth-place Rangers and three behind the seventh-place Canadiens.
The Panthers must now make up three points in their final two games of the season: Thursday in Atlanta and Saturday at home against the Capitals.
"I don't know, I'm not a statistician," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said about the Panthers' playoff chances. "We have to win our next two games. I think we have a chance to get in."
The Panthers will need help. Ironically, they’ll need it from the Flyers, who play the Rangers twice in this final week: Thursday at Madison Square Garden and Sunday at the Wachovia Center. They can also hope that Montreal loses Thursday at Boston and Saturday when they play host to the Penguins.
The remaining schedule:
Panthers: Thursday at Atlanta, Saturday home against the Capitals. Rangers: Thursday home against Philadelphia, Sunday at Philadelphia. Canadiens: Thursday at Boston, Saturday home against the Penguins.
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The Panthers will have to win both of their remaining games since the first tie-breaker to get into the playoffs is wins. The Panthers have 39, both the Rangers and Canadiens have 41.
The game-winner by Carter, his 45th of the season, came after he shot the puck from the side of the net. The puck dribbled past Vokoun, who appeared to lose his balance.
"I was by the post," said Vokoun. "I saw the shot but as soon as it hit me, I knew it was going in."
"You shoot the puck and things happen," Carter said. "The puck just came back and hit me and I scored."
The victory allowed Philadelphia to clinch a playoff spot
"Obviously it's nice to get into the playoffs, but we still have a lot of work to do to get home ice advantage," said Carter.
The Panthers best chances to tie the game came on Booth’s backhander with time running out and a Richard Zednik wrist shot off a 2-on-1 breakaway with 9:50 remaining that Biron also stopped.
Biron stopped 29 of 30 shots while Vokoun stopping 28 of 30.
Brett McLean put the Panthers ahead with his seventh goal at 4:30 of the second period, scoring from the slot with a wrist shot after taking a centering pass from Michael Frolik.
The Flyers tied it with a fluky goal at 15:45 of the period. Matthew Carle poked a shot that bounced off Joffrey Lupul's skate into the net. Lupul was credited with his 24th goal.
Biron said that he was especially pleased by the way the Flyers won.
"Sometimes you can play games, win games and feel a little bit like we squeaked by," he explained. "Today I think we played the way we wanted to play against a team that was desperate and held them to five shots in the third period."
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren announced that left winger Riley Cote will be sidelined for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his right ring finger at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. Cote injured the finger in a fight during a game with the New York Islanders on March 28.
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