The Florida Panthers won’t be in the playoffs again this season, but they might have just knocked the Bruins out of it as well.
Thanks in part to Thursday night’s 4-2 loss at BB&T Center, the Bruins no longer hold a postseason spot nor control their own fate.
The Panthers sure liked playing the spoiler this time around, as they got a little revenge after Boston all but ended their own playoff hopes last month.
“It’s not sweet because we’re still not in the playoffs,” said goalie Roberto Luongo, who moved into a tie for 10th all-time with his 401st career victory after making 34 saves.
“But they did it to us last week. It was a heartbreaker, so it was nice to return the favor. But we’re still on the outside looking in. We’ll take it and get ready for the last one and move on.”
With Ottawa beating the Rangers and Boston getting none of the four available points on its back-to-back set in Washington and Sunrise, the Bruins are in trouble.
Boston finds itself one point behind Pittsburgh and two back of Ottawa in the race for the two wild-card spots.
On Thursday, it was a Boston boy who all but did them in.
Jimmy Hayes, who grew up not far from TD Garden, scored after Jussi Jokinen (not from Boston) picked off a puck in the Bruins’ zone and slid over a nice pass with 4:46 left.
Boston had clawed back to a one-goal deficit on a sweet Brad Marchant goal moments before, but Hayes’ goal all but put the Bruins’ fire out.
“We wanted to end on a high note,” said Hayes, who now has two goals in the past 23 games.
“We showed we can still compete, still play hard. I’m a Florida Panther, so no emotions there. We made it tougher on them, but tonight was about us.”
Boston took the initial lead with 4:48 left in the second, but Florida answered on a Sasha Barkov wrister three minutes later.
The Panthers opened things up in the third off goals from Jonathan Huberdeau (off goalie Tuukka Rask’s head) and Brad Boyes before the Bruins closed to one with 6:45 remaining.
Luongo, honored by the team in a pregame ceremony for winning No.400, was solid throughout and stopped 16 of 17 shots in the third.
“They have to win now, but this was more about us showing up now that we’re out of it,” former Boston enforcer Shawn Thornton said.
“It’s about playing hockey the right way. If we do that, we’ll get results. The other stuff is out of our control. … I really wanted to win this game. It feels good in here.”
Al Montoya was back on the Florida bench for the first time since being injured along with Luongo against Toronto on March 3.
With Montoya healthy enough to play — and expected to start Saturday’s finale against the Devils — Dan Ellis was sent back to AHL San Antonio.
▪ By assisting on Barkov’s goal, Jaromir Jagr took sole possession of fourth place on the all-time scoring list with 1,799 points.
Jagr’s assist on Huberdeau’s wild shot gave him 1,800 career points and tied him for sixth on the assist list with 1,079.
▪ Equipment manager Chris Moody worked his 1,000th NHL game, and Florida players honored the milestone by wearing baseball caps with 1,000 stitched on the front and Moody’s nickname on the back. After the game, they presented Moody — in his 10th season with the Panthers — with a Breitling designer watch.