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Philadelphia Flyers clinch playoff berth with victory over the Florida Panthers

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Playoff hockey returns to the Wells Fargo Center this spring.

Thanks to the Calgary Flames’ victory over the New Jersey Devils on Monday night, the Flyers needed a win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night to clinch their first playoff berth since 2012.

The game did not get out to such a great start, as is becoming commonplace. The Flyers were sloppy in both zones and struggled to create sustained pressure. They got a golden opportunity late in the period after Drew Shore was called for a double-minor for high-sticking Wayne Simmonds and two minutes later Scottie Upshall was whistled for slashing putting the Flyers on the two-man advantage. The Flyers came away empty.

Whatever was said in the locker room between periods resonated with the Flyers in a big way.

The Flyers finally solved Dan Ellis early in the second after Adam Hall jumped on a Colby Robak turnover in front of his net. Hall’s shot was denied but the rebound ended up back in the slot where Vinny Lecavalier ripped his 20th goal of the season. With Lecavalier’s goal, the Flyers increase their NHL-lead to seven 20-goal scorers. It marks the first time since 1989-90 that the Flyers had seven players score 20 or more goals.

Later in the period, Claude Giroux took a pass from Nicklas Grossmann and carried it through the slot before unleashing a wrist-shot that Ellis had no chance of stopping to put the Flyers up 2-0. He wasn’t done. Just over two minutes later, Flyers defenseman Mark Streit carried the puck deep into the Panthers zone then dished a gorgeous cross-ice, backhand pass to Giroux, who ripped a one-timer past Ellis to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead.

With the Flyers still buzzing with five minutes remaining in the period, Braydon Coburn let loose a slap-shot from the point. Ellis was up to the task making the first save but the rebound kicked out to his left right onto the tape of Sean Couturier who deposited his 11th goal of the season. The goal snapped a 17-game goalless streak for the Flyers’ center.

Nothing is ever easy and that’s why the third period was tense for a stretch.

Florida came out in the third period looking to mount a comeback. Just 1:14 into the period, defenseman Erik Gudbranson beat Mason on a shot from the point to make it a 4-1 game and give the Panthers some life.

And boy did they certainly come alive.

The Panthers were all over the ice getting quality scoring chances when Jonathan Huberdeau got a loose puck in the neutral zone and poked it past Streit. Huberdeau then got off a wrist-shot on Mason that beat the Flyers’ netminder five-hole. Certainly a goal Mason would like to have back.

After Huberdeau made it a two-goal game, the Panthers went full throttle at the Flyers. They kept up the attack then forced the Flyers to take a penalty giving them their only power play of the game. Luckily for Philadelphia, the Panthers couldn’t cash in. They continued to pressure the Flyers and keep them on their heels.

Philadelphia finally put the game away as Vinny Lecavalier somehow fed the puck to Tye McGinn in front of the Panthers net and McGinn scored his fourth goal of the year with 4:54 remaining in the third period.

The Flyers would hold on for their third consecutive 5-2 game and their second consecutive 5-2 victory. With the win, the Flyers clinch a spot in the playoffs for the 17th time in the last 19 years and the 37th time in the team’s 45-year history.

Philadelphia improves to 20-2-1 when Giroux scores and 33-14-3 when he registers at least one point. Perhaps the most impressive part of the Flyers’ playoff berth is how the team turned things around after their 1-7 start. Some people saw this coming but none more so than captain Claude Giroux who said in October, “We’ll take it here game-by-game and we will make the playoffs.”

Giroux took a lot of heat for the comment as some people thought it was preposterous the Flyers could turn their ill-fated season around.

Consider it done.

Now the Flyers are playing for positioning. It is not out of the question that the Flyers can catch the Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan Division but they will likely have to win out to do so. The Columbus Blue Jackets are still just two points behind the Flyers in the division standings so there is still a lot on the line over the last three games.

But, for now, enjoy the win because the Wells Fargo Center will be rockin’ once again in mid-April.

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