NHL

Hurricanes-Panthers Preview

Though Florida looks like a longshot to reach the playoffs, at least it won't need to leave home as it attempts to get in.

The Panthers play their final five games in Sunrise, starting Thursday night against a Carolina Hurricanes club that failed to score in the season's first two meetings.

Tenth in the East, Florida (35-27-15) missed a huge opportunity to gain ground with Tuesday's 3-2 loss at Boston. Milan Lucic scored the tiebreaking goal with 1:09 remaining in regulation to drop the Panthers six points behind the Bruins, who own the final wild-card spot. Florida is also three points back of ninth-place Ottawa, which holds a game in hand on the Panthers.

Ottawa last reached the postseason in 2011-12 - its only playoff appearance in the previous 13 seasons. It will host the Bruins on April 9 and hopes there will be something at stake.

''Obviously now we have to get some help," coach Gerard Gallant said. "It's out of our hands a little bit, but hey - go home, win as many games as you can and see what happens.

"We're going to keep working and battling hard. Until somebody says we can't make the playoffs then we're still there.''

Looking for a third straight victory at home, Florida has gone 9-3-3 in its last 15 there.

"The odds are against us but we're going to regroup and keep fighting," goaltender Robert Luongo told the NHL's official website.

Luongo made 26 saves but felt he let his team down Tuesday. He was in net for part of Florida's 1-0 home victory over Carolina (28-37-11) on Nov. 26, making 11 saves before leaving in the second period with an upper-body injury. Al Montoya finished and stopped 22 shots.

With Luongo and Montoya hurt, veteran Dan Ellis made 27 saves in the other matchup, a 2-0 road win March 14.

Florida has never shut out the same opponent three straight times. Tampa Bay is the only club to blank the Hurricanes in three consecutive contests, spanning the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons.

Brandon Pirri scored in the latest game against the Hurricanes. He had a power-play goal Tuesday and has scored 18 of his career-high 21 goals in his last 25 games.

The Panthers rank near the bottom of the league in power-play percentage at 16.0 and have gone 1 for 16 with the man advantage in the last six at home. However, they went 4 for 9 in the final three games of a 2-2-1 trip.

Carolina has killed nine of 10 penalties in the last seven contests, but has gone 3 for 27 on the power play while losing eight of 11.

The Hurricanes erased a 2-0 first-period deficit Tuesday but failed to put forth a collectively energetic effort throughout a 4-2 defeat to Washington.

''Overall, I don't think we had enough guys that were willing to put the work in to get the job done," forward Eric Staal said. "We need to respond and be better next game."

Staal has three goals and four assists in five games. Like the rest of his teammates, he's looking for his first points against the Panthers this season after recording four assists as the Hurricanes took all three 2013-14 meetings.

Carolina's Cam Ward has posted a 1.17 goals-against average in splitting his last four starts against Florida.

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