With no margin for error remaining, the Panthers hoped to win their final five games and thereby not eliminate themselves from the playoff race.
Saturday night, Tampa Bay sharpshooter Steven Stamkos and goalie Ben Bishop did the honors for them.
Stamkos’ two second-period goals and Bishop’s 34 saves led the Lightning to a 4-0 victory over the Panthers ending any chance — as slim as it was — Florida had of making the postseason.
For the 17th team in the franchise’s 21 seasons, the Panthers will sit out the Stanley Cup playoffs.
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With Detroit and Boston winning not long after the final horn sounded in Sunrise, Saturday’s loss became a moot point anyway. Even a win Saturday wouldn’t have saved Florida from mathematical elimination.
“It was disappointing,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “We had chances but didn’t work hard enough, compete hard enough.’’
Florida, which will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season since winning the 2012 Southeast Division title, didn’t have much of a chance after Tuesday’s regulation loss in Boston.
The Panthers had hope, however, that with five consecutive wins perhaps they could catch Boston or even Detroit.
Florida won Thursday but then the Lightning scored three goals within a 15-minute span over the second and third periods to finish things off.
Tampa Bay, which won three of four against the Panthers, pulled into a tie with Montreal for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Panthers play host to the Canadiens on Sunday.
“It’s frustrating, there is a lot of pride in this locker room,’’ Brandon Pirri said. “No way are we going to mail it in. We’re going to finish this season strong.’’
Stamkos’ first goal came 6:10 into the second as he one-timed a cross-ice pass from Tyler Johnson from the left circle.
Five minutes later, Stamkos gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead on a similar shot from the right side.
Ryan Callahan had the biggest goal when he drove in on Roberto Luongo and scored 1:03 into the third. Tampa Bay’s fourth goal came with 1:47 left.
“I’m disappointed. We were right there,’’ said Luongo, who turned 36 on Saturday.
“There are going to be a lot of ‘what ifs’ over the next week. I wish I would have been better for the guys down the stretch, maybe steal a game or two more.
“Unfortunately that didn’t happen.’’
Said Jaromir Jagr: “I don’t look at the score even if it’s 4-0. I thought we did good things, had our chances. [Bishop] was in a zone. We didn’t give up on the game. We just weren’t lucky, hit a hot goaltender.’’
Although its parent club won’t be going to playoffs, the San Antonio Rampage, after winning its franchise-record ninth consecutive game Thursday, clinched a spot in the AHL postseason.
Florida is moving its AHL operation to Portland, Maine, after this season.
“We have a real good team down there, a great group of guys,’’ Florida defenseman Alex Petrovic said.
Petrovic, Vincent Trocheck and Dan Ellis are all able to return to San Antonio for the postseason and likely will head back to Texas following Florida’s season finale next Saturday.
Although defenseman Steven Kampfer spent the first four months of the season with San Antonio, he would have to clear waivers to go back — something Florida won’t likely subject him to after signing him to a two-year contract extension.
▪ With Scottie Upshall back in the lineup Saturday, Florida scratched Shawn Thornton.
▪ Ellis is expected to start Sunday against the Canadiens.
When/where: 5 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise.
TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560.
Series: Canadiens lead 39-37-6.
Noteworthy: This is the fifth meeting between the two with Montreal winning three of the first four. All four games have been decided by one goal.