SUNRISE, Fla. – The Philadelphia Flyers are ready for the playoffs.
Claude Giroux scored two goals and the Flyers clinched a Stanley Cup playoff berth by beating the Florida Panthers 5-2 on Tuesday.
Tye McGinn, Sean Couturier and Vincent Lecavalier also scored for the Flyers and Steve Mason made 38 saves.
The Flyers won their second consecutive game after losing the four previous games and after a 1-7 start to the season, making the playoffs is a big relief.
“From the start we got, from the first (eight) games, we’ve got to be proud of what we’ve done,” Lecavalier said. “Obviously we have to finish strong and make sure that we’re ready and confident for that first round.”
Jonathan Huberdeau and Erik Gudbranson scored goals for Florida and Dan Ellis stopped 22 shots. Ellis substituted for Roberto Luongo, a late scratch with an upper-body injury.
After the game, Panthers coach Peter Horachek said Luongo’s injury was muscular soreness and not serious.
The Panthers didn’t go easily. Trailing 4-0, they scored two goals early in the third period to close to 4-2 and make the Flyers nervous.
“We kind of took our foot off the gas,” Giroux said. “We only have three games to kind of work on our game and be ready for the playoffs.”
The Flyers scored four goals in the second period, including three on their first four shots.
The Flyers took a 1-0 lead when Lecavalier found a loose puck in the slot and wristed it between Ellis’ pads at 2:02 for his 20th goal of the season. The Flyers have seven 20-goal scorers.
Philadelphia went ahead 2-0 when Giroux fired a shot from the top of the right circle that got cleanly by Ellis at 6:29.
The Flyers stretched their lead to 3-0 a few minutes later on Giroux’s second goal. Mark Streit dropped a pass to Giroux in the slot and his wrist shot beat Ellis at 8:50.
“Just a couple of shots where I?was able to get open and shoot it on net,” Giroux said. “Obviously those goals were huge for us to get the lead.”
Philadelphia went ahead 4-0 with 4:57 left in the second when Couturier wristed in a rebound from the right side. It was his first goal in 18 games.
The Panthers have lost six of their past seven games and Ellis has lost all five starts with the Panthers since being acquired from Dallas on March 5.
“It was a good start (in the first) but in the second period I just let in four bad goals,” Ellis said. “I take responsibility for that loss. … I can’t let two pucks go right through me.”
Gudbranson scored 1:14 into the third when he fired a shot from just inside the blue line that got past Mason to make the score 4-1.
Huberdeau pulled the Panthers to 4-2 when he poked the puck between Mason’s pads at 5:38 of the third. It was the first goal for Huberdeau since Jan. 20 at Pittsburgh, a span of 19 games.
“Obviously, we made it closer than it should have been,” said Flyers coach Craig Berube, who was happy the team clinched a spot in the playoffs.
“They went through a lot and they battled hard all year. They’re a good group of guys, good character, and they deserve a lot of credit for making the playoffs.”
The Flyers made it 5-2 when McGinn took a pass from Lecavalier from behind the net and poked the puck past Ellis with 4:54 left in the third.
NOTES: Flyers R Steve Downie returned to the lineup after missing eight games with an upper-body injury. … Huberdeau returned after missing 11 games with a lower-body injury. … The Panthers recalled centre Drew Shore from AHL San Antonio and reassigned forward Bobby Butler to the Rampage.