PHILADELPHIA - Jeff Carter and the Philadelphia Flyers know making the playoffs is just beginning.
Carter scored the go-ahead goal at 7:32 of the third period, helping the Flyers clinch a playoff berth with a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night. "Obviously it's nice to get into the playoffs, but we still have a lot of work to do to get home ice advantage," said Carter, who became the 20th player in Flyers' history to score 45 goals.
The Flyers, who are tied with Carolina for fourth and home ice advantage in the Eastern Conference, have three regular season games remaining - home and home with the Rangers and at the New York Islanders.
Carter said that the Flyers approached the game like a playoff contest.
"You have to," he explained. "Carolina came into the game like a desperate hockey team playing for their playoff lives. It's getting down to that time when you have to get your mind ready."
Carter moved ahead of New Jersey's Zach Parise for second place in the NHL scoring race. His shot from the side of the crease dribbled past Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who appeared to lose his balance.
"You shoot the puck and things happen," Carter said. "The puck just came back and hit me and I scored."
Vakoun said that Carter's shot bounced off the outside of his leg.
"I was by the post," the goalie said. "I saw the shot but as soon as it hit me, I knew it was going in."
Joffrey Lupul also scored for the Flyers, whose 97th point and 43rd victory surpassed their 2007-08 totals (95 and 42).
Brett McLean scored for the Panthers, who dropped behind the New York Rangers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers beat Montreal and have a two-point edge on Florida.
"I don't know, I'm not a statistician," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said about the Panthers' playoff chances. "We have to win our next two games. I think we have a chance to get in."
Florida finished the season at Atlanta and at home against Washington.
McLean put the Panthers ahead with his seventh goal at 4:30 of the second period, scoring from the slot with a wrist shot after taking a centring pass from Michael Frolik.
The Flyers tied it with a fluky goal at 15:45 of the period. Matthew Carle poked a shot that bounced off Lupul's skate into the net. Lupul was credited with his 24th goal.
Philadelphia's Martin Biron stopped 29 shots and made a crucial save on a shot by David Booth in the closing seconds with the Panthers attacking with an extra skater.
Biron said that he was especially pleased by the way the Flyers won.
"Sometimes you can play games, win games and feel a little bit like we squeaked by," he explained. "Today I think we played the way we wanted to play against a team that was desperate and held them to five shots in the third period."
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren announced that left winger Riley Cote will be sidelined for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his right ring finger at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. Cote injured the finger in a fight during a game with the New York Islanders on March 28.
Notes: Prior to faceoff, the Flyers announced the winners of their 2008-09 season awards. C Mike Richards was named most valuable; D Kimmo Timonen, outstanding defenceman; C Darroll Powe, most improved; C Danny Briere, best exemplifying strong rapport with the media; and C Jeff Carter, most mentions for star of the game. ...Florida LW Cory Stillman played in his 900th NHL game. ... Flyers D Ryan Parent sustained a lower body injury in the second period and did not return. ... Philadelphia D Andrew Alberts hit the post early in the third period. ... The teams split the season series 2-2.