SUNRISE, Fla. – Brent Burns scored twice and the Carolina Hurricanes scored four times in the third period to beat the Florida Panthers 6-4 on Thursday night to win the Metropolitan Division.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jesper Fast, Shayne Gostisbehere and Sebastian Aho also scored for the Hurricanes, who began the night one point ahead of New Jersey atop the division. Frederick Andersen finished with 31 saves.
Carolina will open the first-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the New York Islanders.
“I loved how the guys went about their business. The end was a little weird, but it was one hell of an effort,” said Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour, whose team has won its division the past three seasons. “The guys in that room are as honest as they come and that’s how we have to get it done. We just come to play. I am proud of them. In the division we’re in, it says a lot but it is not what we came to do. We have bigger things we want to accomplish.”
Aleksander Barkov, Ryan Lomberg, Anthony Duclair and Carter Verhaeghe scored for Florida, which began the night one point behind the Islnders for the top wild card in the Eastern Conference. Alex Lyon had 30 saves.
The Panthers will face league-best Boston in the first round of the playoffs.
Florida, which had scored two early goals in the third to tie the score and came within a goal in the final 90 seconds.
“We had a lot of fight but made mistakes which will not be allowed or acceptable in the playoffs,” the Panthers’ Matthew Tkachuk said. “We had to be patient in a game like that and it got away from us in a few shifts. They capitalized, a good team and the top team in their division. But the fight in the third shows how we fought all year, especially in the second half.”
The Panthers came into the night on a seven-game point streak (6-0-1) but found themselves down 2-0 going into the third period.
Burns opened the scoring 8:21 into the first period with a long shot from inside the blue line before Kotkaniemi gave Carolina a 2-0 lead 1:12 into the second.
The Panthers came out fast in the third period, with Barkov scoring at 1:14 with Lomberg tying things at 2 just over two minutes later.
The Hurricanes quickly took their two-goal lead back as Burns scored at 6:07 with Fast putting a rebound past Lyon at 6:28.
After an empty net goal from Gostisbehere with 2:40 remaining, the Panthers scored a pair of quick goals (again, with the net empty) as Duclair got his second of the season and Verhaeghe recorded his 42nd.
With a minute left, however, Aho put the finishing touches with Carolina’s second empty-net goal of the night.
“We knew the game would have a playoff feel because there was a lot on the line,” Gostisbehere said. “It became a little more interesting at the end, but it shows the character of this group. You don’t want come into the third up 2-0 and quickly it is 2-2, but we regrouped, got our stuff together and finished up strong.”
The Panthers signed two of their top prospects this week. C Mackie Samoskevich, their first-round selection in 2021, left the University of Michigan after his sophomore season and joined Florida’s AHL team in Charlotte. D Mike Benning, the MVP of the 2022 Frozen Four with the University of Denver, signed his entry-level contract and joined the Panthers on Thursday. Benning took part in Florida’s morning skate but did not play against the Hurricanes.
Hurricanes: Against the New York Islanders in the first round of the playoffs.
Panthers: Against Boston in the first round of the playoffs.
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