Flyers aim to clinch playoff berth in Florida

( - The Philadelphia Flyers attempt to put an ill-timed slump behind them on Tuesday night as they shoot for a second straight victory -- and a playoff spot -- in a matchup with the Florida Panthers.

The Flyers will play their next three on the road before ending the regular season at home versus the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. They head to Florida having topped the Buffalo Sabres 5-2 on Sunday.


Philadelphia had lost four straight and was 1-4-2 in its previous seven games before besting Buffalo. The win moved the Flyers back in front of the Columbus Blue Jackets by two points for third place in the Metropolitan Division and also has them a pair of points behind the second-place New York Rangers.

Both the Flyers and Blue Jackets have four games left in the regular season, while the Rangers have three. All three clubs are in action tonight; New York hosts Carolina, while Columbus welcomes the Phoenix Coyotes to town.


Philadelphia can officially clinch at least a wild card berth with a victory as they are five points ahead of the ninth-place New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs, who both have just three games remaining.

Brayden Schenn had a pair of goals in Sunday's win, while Steve Mason made 17 saves. Matt Read and Vincent Lecavalier registered a goal and an assist each, and Mark Streit had three helpers.

"I thought we played a solid team game tonight, defense-first mentality and didn't give them a whole lot and the two points were key," Schenn said.

Zac Rinaldo also scored in Sunday's win, but received a match penalty for an illegal check 4:29 into the third period. He delivered an elbow to the head of Buffalo defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, who suffered a concussion from the hit.

"I shouldn't have done it. There was no need for it," Rinaldo said of the hit following Sunday's win. "We were up 4-0. There was no need for that hit but it is what it is. It's a part of the game."

The NHL agreed with Rinaldo and suspended the winger four games for the check, sidelining him for the rest of the regular season.


The Panthers will try to deal a blow to another playoff hopeful tonight after handing the Dallas Stars a tough 3-2 setback on Sunday. Sean Bergenheim helped Florida snap a five-game slide as he scored to snap a 2-2 tie with 4:31 left in regulation.

Bergenheim converted a well-placed tip-in of Colby Robak's attempt to send Florida in front.

"I just tried to put my stick down on the ice and he (Robak) found it. It was a really nice play by him," Bergenheim said.

The Panthers potted three unanswered goals after Dallas' Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin each scored in the game's first 21 minutes to deal the Stars a potentially damaging defeat, with Scottie Upshall and Brandon Pirri also lighting the lamp for a Florida team that had lost eight of nine coming in.

Roberto Luongo did his part as well for Florida, turning aside 35 shots.

The Panthers have now split the first two of their season-ending five-game homestand.

The Panthers have won four of their last six versus the Flyers and they snapped a five-game series home losing streak with a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia on Nov. 25.

Mason is 5-1-0 with a 1.48 goals against average and one shutout in his career versus the Panthers, while Luongo has gone 5-7-2 with a 3.21 GAA and one shutout lifetime when facing the Flyers.



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