The Panthers hoped to put Philadelphia’s playoff party on hold just another day bolstered by adding three forwards to the lineup.
Alas, Roberto Luongo came out of warmups complaining of what coach Peter Horachek described as being sore and the Flyers took full advantage.
Philadelphia scored three goals off its first four shots in the second and clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 5-2 win at BB&T Center.
The Panthers, meanwhile, will miss the postseason for the 12th time in 13 seasons. In the franchise’s 19 seasons, it has missed the playoffs 15 times.
“It was a terrible second period and you can’t expect to win when you play like that,’’ said Erik Gudbranson, whose long shot put the Panthers on the board early in the third to make it 4-1.
If the Flyers thought they had an easy one on their hands, the Panthers looked like they wanted to prove them wrong.
Florida played one of its best periods of the month in the first, dictating play and surviving what could have been a disastrous penalty kill late.
First, Drew Shore — brought up from the minors on Monday — drew four minutes in the penalty box for drawing blood with a high stick on Wayne Simmonds.
With 1:40 left in that penalty, Scottie Upshall was called for slashing, giving the Flyers a two-man advantage for 100 seconds.
Although the Flyers challenged backup goalie Dan Ellis, they didn’t get anything through and the two went into the first break still scoreless.
Florida’s tough play didn’t last, however, as the Flyers scored two quick goals to kick off the second and all but stamp their ticket to the playoffs.
“It was a good start and then in the second I gave up four crap goals,’’ said Ellis, who faced 12 shots in the second. “It’s unacceptable. It’s frustrating as hell when you’re the primary reason for the loss. I take responsibility for the loss.’’
The Flyers got its first when Vincent Lecavalier — who long owned the Panthers from his days in Tampa — jammed one through Ellis’ skates 2:02 in.
Four minutes later and Claude Giroux made it 2-0 by scoring his first of two, this one off a nice slap shot from 20 feet out. The Flyers scored their third at 8:50 of the second from Giroux and led 4-0 with five minutes remaining in the period.
Jonathan Huberdeau, who missed 11 games with a concussion, made it 4-2 with 14:22 left to play. It was Huberdeau’s first goal since Jan. 20 and second in a span of 37 games.
The Panthers plan to drop capacity at the county-owned BB&T Center even more next season by blocking off entire sections in the upper deck.
At Tuesday’s morning skate, a large theatre curtain hung from the rafters blocking off six end zone sections. New team president Rory Babich said Tuesday the team will either tarp those seats off or keep the curtain.
Florida isn’t offering season ticket packages in those sections. The arena holds almost 19,000 now for hockey and is among the largest in the league.
Babich says the new capacity — if all upper deck tarps are utilized — will be around 15,700.
The Panthers left Miami Arena (cap. 14,703) in 1998 for the larger arena in Sunrise. The team had a 5,000-person waiting list for tickets when they went north.
“This is one of the biggest arenas in the NHL so we’re trying to make it a little smaller for most games,’’ Babich said. “We’ll have people in a smaller area, make it a more intimate experience.
“We’re not selling out at 19,000-plus, so instead of having empty seats in the less desirable sections, we’ve decided to block them off.’’