By Dave Joseph and wire reports for floridapanthers.com
The Panthers exhilarating, uneven and tumultuous run to the playoffs ended Thursday evening.
Just moments after beating the Thrashers 3-2 in Atlanta, the Canadiens earned a point in Boston to eliminate the Panthers from the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Panthers carried out their task Thursday to qualify for the playoffs by beating the Thrashers on a game-winning goal by David Booth with 4:25 remaining in regulation.
But the Panthers couldn’t get any help. Needing the Canadiens and/or Rangers to lose to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Rangers defeated the Flyers 2-1 and the Canadiens came back from a 3-1 deficit in Boston to earn a point in a 5-4 overtime loss. The Canadiens spent the final 1:01 of regulation on the power play when Bruins defenseman and former Panther Steve Montador was sent to the penalty box for holding.
"You look back for one point throughout the year - that's hard to take," Booth said.
"You don't lose it (playoff chance) in the last few games. It's the whole course of the season. It's about consistency," Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun said.
The Panthers, who won their 40th game of the season – only the third time in franchise history the team has won 40 or more games – have one game remaining. They play host Saturday evening at BankAtlantic Center to the Capitals.
"It's really important that we at least gave ourselves a chance (by winning this game). We were able to do that," Horton said.
"Regardless of what happened tonight I am very proud of how we played and showed up tonight," said Florida coach Peter DeBoer.
Defenseman Zach Bogosian scored twice for Atlanta.
"They were desperate and they came out on top. It's obviously not what we wanted," the 18-year-old rookie said.
The Panthers tied it at two when Stillman tipped in a shot by Gregory Campbell early in the third period.
Booth scored his 29th goal by knocking in his own rebound past Atlanta goaltender Johan Hedberg. Stephen Weiss had drew an assist, his second of the game.
Stillman's 17th goal came 50 seconds after Bogosian scored a short-handed goal to give Atlanta a 2-1 lead. Bogosian shot the puck over the left shoulder of Vokoun from 15 feet out after a pass from Marty Reasoner for his ninth of the season.
"He's playing real well," Atlanta's leading scorer and captain Ilya Kovalchuk said of Bogosian. "He's got some confidence. He's skating with the puck, and he knows how to skate, so he'll be scary good in a couple of years."
The Panthers tied it at one with 3:20 remaining in the second period on a power play goal by Horton, his 22nd. The play was reviewed by officials and ruled a goal after video showed the shot hit high inside the net past Hedberg and bounced out.
The Thrashers had taken a 1-0 lead at 9:17 of the opening period when Bogosian scored on a power-play, beating Vokoun with a 20-foot shot from the point.
Notes: The Thrashers had gone 0-for-21 on power plays before Bogosian scored his first goal. ... The Thrashers had a two-man advantage for two minutes at 4:58 of the opening period and failed to score, getting off five shots, three by Ilya Kovalchuk. ... Florida had a two-man advantage for 28 seconds later in the period and failed to score. Florida won the season series 4-2-0.