The Florida Panthers ended one of the longest playoff droughts in major North American sports Thursday despite a 4-2 loss to Washington, which also earned a postseason bid to complete the eight-team field for the Eastern Conference.
Both teams qualified after Buffalo lost 2-1 at Philadelphia, eliminating the Sabres.
The Panthers are in the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Only six franchises have gone longer without a postseason appearance: the Buffalo Bills (NFL), Baltimore Orioles (MLB), Toronto Blue Jays (MLB), Kansas City Royals (MLB), Washington Nationals (MLB) and Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB).
The Capitals raced to a 3-0 lead with goals from Jay Beagle, Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich. Mikael Samuelson and Ed Jovanovski scored to start a comeback that fell short for the Panthers, who switched from Jose Theodore to Scott Clemmensen and back to Theodore in the second period.
Flyers 2, Sabres 1 — Matt Read and Marc-Andre Bourdon scored as host Philadelphia eliminated Buffalo from the postseason.
Penguins 5, Rangers 2 — Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves to tie Tom Barrasso for the Pittsburgh franchise record for victories at 226, and the host Penguins clinched home-ice advantage in the first round.
Predators 2, Stars 0 — Pekka Rinne made 28 saves for his fifth shutout of the season and Francis Bouillon scored at 4:28 of the third period as host Nashville won for the third time in four games.
Devils 2, Red Wings 1 — Petr Sykora broke a tie with 8:40 left and Martin Brodeur made 23 saves for visiting New Jersey.
Wild 2, Blackhawks 1 — Cal Clutterbuck's tying tip-in with 3:12 left in regulation and Devin Setoguchi's shootout goal lifted host Minnesota.
Maple Leafs 3, Lightning 2 — Steven Stamkos scored his 59th goal of the season for host Tampa Bay, but Dion Phaneuf scored in overtime for Toronto.