Matt Read and Marc-Andre Bourdon each scored goals to lead the Philadelphia Flyers to a 2-1 win Thursday night over Buffalo that eliminated the Sabres from a postseason spot.
The Sabres needed to beat the Flyers and have Florida top Washington to keep their faint playoff hopes alive heading into their final game of the season. The Sabres failed to handle the Flyers and the Capitals beat Florida 4-2.
Buffalo tried to join the 1994 New York Islanders in becoming the NHL’s second team to rally from a 10-point deficit in mid-February to make the playoffs.
Read beat goalie Ryan Miller on a breakaway with 4:21 left in the game to end Buffalo’s bid.
The Flyers eliminated the Sabres in Game 7 of the opening-round playoff series last season.
The Sabres were suddenly back in the hunt after completing a frantic comeback by rallying from a pair of two-goal third period deficits in a 6-5 overtime win over Toronto on Tuesday. That pulled Buffalo even with Washington.
The Sabres mounted a remarkable second-half surge in which they went 20-7-5 in last 32 games entering Thursday.
The 33rd game did them in.
Buffalo grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second when Ville Leino played spoiler against his former team.
Leino, part of Philadelphia’s 2010 Eastern Conference championship team, scored his eighth goal with 2:34 left in the second period. He was in the crease to knock a rebound into an empty net after Ilya Bryzgalov strayed to block the previous shot.
Leino was fifth on the Flyers last season in scoring with a career-best 53 points (19 goals, 34 assists). The Sabres signed him to a $27-million, six-year deal and he hasn’t come close to matching that production.
Bourdon tied the game early in the third with a slapper that spoiled Miller’s shutout bid.
Read took the puck at center ice and went all the way to beat Miller for the late winner, crushing playoff dreams in upstate New York.
Washington has 90 points to Buffalo’s 88. The Capitals own the tiebreaker because they have more non-shootout wins.
The Flyers are the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference after Pittsburgh’s 5-2 win over the New York Rangers. The Penguins will play the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. They face each other Saturday in the regular-season finale.
• Caps 4, Panthers 2
WASHINGTON — The Florida Panthers ended one of the longest playoff droughts in major North American sports Thursday night despite a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals, who also earned a postseason bid to complete the eight-team field for the Eastern Conference.
Both teams qualified after Buffalo lost 2-1 at Philadelphia, eliminating the Sabres.
Still to be determined is the winner of the Southeast Division. The Panthers are in the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, but they also will win their first division title in franchise history if they gain at least a point at home against Carolina or if the Capitals lose to the New York Rangers on Saturday, the final day of the regular season.
In a wacky game that included three goalie changes in a 6-minute stretch in the second period, the Capitals raced to a 3-0 lead with goals from Jay Beagle, Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich. Of significant concern for Washington is a left leg injury that sent Michal Neuvirth to the locker room, leaving Braden Holtby as the only healthy netminder on the roster.
Mikael Samuelson and Ed Jovanovski scored to start a comeback that fell short for the Panthers, who switched from Jose Theodore to Scott Clemmensen and back to Theodore in the second period.