With a 5-3 win over the Sabres in Buffalo on Sunday, the Florida Panthers officially punched their ticket to the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 48-15-6 Panthers are the first team this year to clinch a spot in the postseason. After making the playoffs twice in their first 18 seasons, they have now made the postseason in three straight years.
It’s been a historic season for the Panthers, who have set several franchise records, both individually and as a team, and several more are within striking distance. Here are just a few historic things the Panthers have accomplished in recent days.
Comeback Cats Make History
Before clinching a playoff spot in Buffalo on Sunday, Florida was in New Jersey to battle the Devils Saturday afternoon. New Jersey jumped out to an early lead, going up 2-0 less than four minutes into the game thanks to goals from Yegor Sharangovich and Jack Hughes. Ben Chariot made it 2-1 halfway through the first, but the Devils added two more goals early in the second (from Sharangovich and Janne Kuokkanen).
Once again, the Panthers got one back, this time on a Radko Gudas goal, but a third goal from Sharangovich and a goal from Andreas Johnsson made it 6-2 going into the final period of regulation. Through two periods, the Devils outshot the Panthers 25-16.
Then came the third. Brandon Montour made it 6-3 5:34 into the period, and Gustav Forsling added another two minutes later. With just under five minutes remaining in regulation, Aleksander Barkov cut the deficit to one. Then, with 1:24 left and the goaltender pulled, Barkov scored again to knot things up at six. The Panthers outshot the Devils 23-5 in the third period, and 1:45 into overtime, Forsling scored again to complete the epic comeback win.
With the comeback victory on Saturday, the Panthers became the 20th team in NHL history to win a game after facing a deficit of four goals or more in the third period. They also tied the NHL record for most three-goal comeback wins in a single season with four.
Huberdeau Breaks Teammate’s Points Record
Jonathan Huberdeau scored a goal in Sunday’s win over Buffalo, bringing his season point total to 97 (24 goals, 73 assists) through 69 games. That is a new Florida Panthers franchise record for points in a single season, eclipsing Barkov’s total of 96 (35 goals, 61 assists) in 2018-19. Before Huberdeau, the record was held by Pavel Bure, who scored 94 points (58 goals, 36 assists) in 1999-00.
Huberdeau currently ranks third in the NHL in points, behind Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (105) and Leon Draisaitl (101), and leads the league in assists, eight ahead of the next-closest player (McDavid). For his career as a whole, the 28-year-old is the Panthers’ franchise leader in games played (660), assists (403), and points (595).
Panthers Solidify Winningest Season
Not only did the Panthers clinch a playoff spot with their win in Buffalo on Sunday, but they also broke the franchise record for most wins in a season. Their previous highest win total for a single season was 47 during the 2015-16 season. In 27 seasons, they have won over 40 games six times.
With 13 games remaining, the 2021-22 Panthers will also break the franchise record for most points in a season (unless they lose all of their last 13 games in regulation, which, to put it mildly, is highly unlikely). Their 102 points are one less than the 103 they amassed in 2015-16.
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All of these regular-season records are wonderful, but the postseason is when the Panthers really want to make history. The team has never won the Stanley Cup and has never made it past the second round of the playoffs. But with the way this team is playing, that could be another franchise record that gets broken.
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Grant is a freelance writer covering the Florida Panthers/Columbus Blue Jackets and contributing to Morning Skate for THW. He started his own sports blog (Head in the Game) in 2013 and worked in the sports information department while at Trine University, from where he graduated in 2019. You can follow Grant on Twitter @G_Tingley.