Panthers Clinch Playoff Spot with Comeback Victory vs. Predators

Jenna CiccotelliAnalyst IIIApril 28, 2021

Florida Panthers center Sam Bennett (9) celebrates his goal with center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) and left wing Anthony Duclair (91) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)
Joel Auerbach/Associated Press

The Florida Panthers have earned another shot at the postseason.

They clinched a postseason berth Tuesday, using a four-goal third period to overcome the Nashville Predators, 7-4.

The Panthers will head to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1996-97.

Florida fell to the New York Islanders in the qualifying round last year.

This year's playoff format is different than in previous years. The league's four location-based divisions will send their top four teams to the playoffs, with the first two rounds consisting of intradivision games. The teams that make it out of that "group stage" will be reseeded based on their regular-season results.

With that in mind, here's a look at the current landscape of the playoffs if the regular season were to conclude today:


West Division

*Vegas Golden Knights: 70 points (34-11-2)

*Colorado Avalanche: 66 points (31-11-4)

*Minnesota Wild: 65 points (31-13-3)

St. Louis Blues: 48 points (21-19-6)


Central Division

*Carolina Hurricanes: 69 points (31-10-7)

*Florida Panthers: 69 points (32-14-5)

*Tampa Bay Lightning: 68 points (33-14-2)

Nashville Predators: 56 points (27-22-2)


East Division

Washington Capitals: 68 points (32-13-4)

Pittsburgh Penguins: 67 points (32-15-3)

New York Islanders: 63 points (29-15-5)

Boston Bruins: 62 points (28-14-6)


North Division

Toronto Maple Leafs: 65 points (30-13-5)

Edmonton Oilers: 58 points (28-16-2)

Winnipeg Jets: 57 points (27-18-3)

Montreal Canadiens: 51 points (21-17-9)


* = already-clinched playoff spot

Standings via NHL.com


The Panthers were again led to a postseason berth by the combination of Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov.

Huberdeau, who paced the team in points last season, has tallied 57 points by way of 18 goals and 39 assists, while Barkov is leading the team in goals with 24 goals and 28 assists.

Following the departure of Mike Hoffman to the St. Louis Blues, the Panthers needed to make up for his 59 points from the 2019-20 campaign. And Carter Verhaeghe, who signed with the team as a free agent in October, has stepped up with 17 goals and 18 assists.

The Florida offense had scored 158 goals this season, seventh-most in the league entering Tuesday.

Heading into Tuesday, backup goaltender Chris Driedger made 22 starts with a 2.17 GAA and .923 save percentage while splitting time with Sergei Bobrovsky (2.86 GAA, .907 save percentage through 28 games).

If the Panthers can perform on both sides of the puck as well as they've demonstrated this season, they should have a good chance at advancing in the postseason.