Slumping Panthers watch playoff hopes fade in loss to Rangers

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The Florida Panthers and Rangers were neck-and-neck for much of Monday’s contest, but New York pulled ahead in the third period with a stunning 21 shots in 20 minutes to earn a 6-3 victory.

Rick Nash scored his 30th goal of the season and later tied Alex Ovechkin for the league lead at 31 with an empty netter. It was defenseman Dan Boyle that broke the 3-3 tie though near the midway point of the third period:

Mats Zuccarello provided the insurance goal at 15:58 of the final frame and finished with two points tonight, giving him 26 points in 46 contests.

The Florida Panthers have now lost seven of their last eight contests and have only earned a consolation point once over that stretch. When that decline started, Florida was a mere point behind in the Wild Card race. Now the Panthers are eight points shy and have watched their playoff chances fall from 45.23% to 5.46% over that span, per Sports Club Stats. Given that the Panthers still have the best record among Eastern Conference teams without a playoff spot, it’s set up a situation where the larger story in the east over the final weeks of the regular season could be about playoff positioning rather than a battle for the final postseason spots.