As the Heat continued its defense of the NBA championship on Thursday in Milwaukee, the Panthers made history of their own in their home finale in Sunrise.
This “accomplishment” won’t be celebrated nor honored with rings or banners.
By losing 4-0 to the Maple Leafs at BB&T Center, the Panthers will finish a season ranked last in the NHL for the first time in franchise history.
The Panthers had earlier clinched last place in the Eastern Conference for the second time in franchise history and second time in the past three years. Florida won the Southeast Division last season but now have finished last in the division in three of the past four years.
Florida has a 25 percent shot — best among non-playoff participants — to land the top pick in the 2013 draft when the lottery is held Monday night in Toronto. The Panthers can fall no lower than second overall in what is considered a very talented top-end draft.
The Panthers will play the final game of this abbreviated 48-game season, one that started on Jan. 19, Saturday in Tampa.
“It hasn’t been an easy year for players or management and more importantly our fan base,” coach Kevin Dineen said. “For all of us, it was a pretty active season where things happened fast and furious. Days off were few and far between for all of us. That was the nature of the season.
“Unfortunately for us, once we got down we couldn’t stop the ball rolling.”
Thursday, the Leafs — who lost in Tampa on Wednesday night — took a few minutes to get going but took a 1-0 lead after Leo Komarov fired a shot past Jacob Markstrom on the team’s first shot 5:39 in.
Ten minutes later, Clarke MacArthur made it 2-0 when he followed up Jay McClement’s shot off the rush and put the loose puck past Markstrom.
As has been the case the past few weeks, the Panthers didn’t create much offense and only threw up five shots toward James Reimer in the opening period before ending the night with a 34-17 edge in shots on goal.
Things didn’t get any better for the Panthers in the second as Phil Kessel got a pair of goals to give the Leafs a 4-0 lead headed into the final 20.
Kessel’s first goal came when rookie Alex Petrovic unwisely passed to Peter Mueller instead of shooting in front of the cage. The Leafs picked up the puck and came on the rush with Kessel scoring off Nazem Kadri’s rebound.
“These are hard lessons to learn,” assistant coach Gord Murphy told Fox Sports during the second intermission.
“That’s what being professional is about, showing up every night and being consistent. They relaxed a little bit and thought it was going to be easy. These are hard lessons for these young men.”
Reimer made 34 saves to earn his career-best fourth save of the season and 10th of his career. Florida, which has lost seven of eight, has been shut out seven times this season.
NEWS AND NOTES
With Quinton Howden back from an illness and Tyson Strachan back from an upper body injury, the Panthers released Scott Timmins and Colby Robak from their active roster.
Timmins, 23, played in five games for the Panthers this season; Robak, who turned 23 on Wednesday, played in 16 games.
• Erik Gudbranson worked out with the team during Thursday’s morning skate but didn’t play for the fourth straight game after being hurt in the final minute of last week’s loss to the Rangers.
The Panthers have lost 331 man-games to injuries so far this season.
• Tomas Kopecky, who came into Thursday’s game leading the team with 15 goals, was named MVP of the 2013 season via an online vote.
• Add another injury to the Panthers long list of them in 2013: On Wednesday night, in-game host Bill Murphy was hurt as he crashed into the boards during a pickup game at the BB&T Center.
Murphy missed his first game since 2002 as he suffered a broken clavicle and fractured a few ribs. "It could have been a lot worse,’’ Murphy said Thursday morning from his home in Plantation. "I was actually pretty lucky.’’