SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — 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.
Aleksander Barkov, Ryan Lomberg, Anthony Duclair and Carter Verhaege 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, ended up falling short of earning the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and will now open the playoffs against the top-seeded Boston Bruins.
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 Gostishere 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 Verhaege recorded his 42nd.
With a minute left, however, Aho put the finishing touches with Carolina’s second empty-net goal of the night.
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.
George Richards, The Associated Press