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Panthers win 1st Southeast Division title
Sunrise, FL (Sports Network) - Scott Clemmensen made 34 saves and the Florida Panthers captured the Southeast Division title with a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in the regular-season finale on Saturday.
Florida earned the No. 3 seed and will face the sixth-seeded New Jersey Devils when the playoffs begin next week. It will be the team's first appearance in the playoffs since they lost to New Jersey in the first round in 1999-2000.
Mikael Samuelsson had a goal and two assists while Marcel Goc scored one goal with one assist. John Madden and Stephen Weiss also found the back of the net for the Panthers (38-26-18), who snapped a five-game skid.
"I think we played a solid game," Samuelsson said. "We were a little sloppy here and there, but we can feel good about ourselves coming into the playoffs."
Joni Pitkanen scored the only goal for the Hurricanes (33-33-16), who finished last in the Southeast Division. Brian Boucher was tagged for three goals on 25 shots.
Florida opened the scoring just over four minutes into the contest when Dmitry Kulikov sent a pass from the right point off an offensive zone draw down low for Goc, who stick-handled around a poke-check attempt by Boucher and fired it into the empty cage for the early lead.
It was 2-0 for the Panthers at 6:43 of the opening period when Ed Jovanovski threw a shot on net from the left point that was stopped by the right pad of Boucher. Madden pounced on the rebound in front and sent it to Tomas Kopecky on the right wing before getting it back and stuffing it past Boucher.
The Panthers extended their lead to 3-0 with a power-play tally at 10;06 of the second period when Samuelsson let a shot slap shot go from the point that was stopped by Boucher, but the rebound fell right to an unchecked Weiss and he fired it home.
Carolina got on the board with a power-play goal at 8:26 of the third period when Eric Staal won an offensive zone draw back to Pitkanen, who blasted it past Clemmensen to make it 3-1.
Samuelsson added an empty-netter with 1:24 to play to cap the scoring.
"We obviously wanted to find a way to win the last game," Hurricanes forward Brandon Sutter said. "After we gave up those two early goals, it kind of set us back, but after that we played well."
Both teams finished 1-for-2 with the man advantage...Carolina missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season...Hurricanes forward Jeremy Welsh made his NHL debut.
04/07 23:52:18 ET