SUNRISE, Florida — The Boston Bruins are in trouble.
The Ottawa Senators, with 97 points and one game remaining, and the Pittsburgh Penguins, with 96 points and two games left, are the frontrunners for the two wild-card playoff berths in the Eastern Conference.
Boston, after a 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on Thursday night, has 95 points and — with one game remaining — needs assistance to make the playoffs.
“It’s tough,” Bruins center Chris Kelly said. “We’ve been a proud group that has always wanted to do things on our own. Now we’re looking for help.”
Ottawa’s final game is Saturday afternoon at the long-since-eliminated Philadelphia Flyers. Pittsburgh plays host to the New York Islanders on Friday and is at the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night. Buffalo has the worst record in the NHL. Boston plays at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night. Tampa Bay is third in the East in points.
The Bruins not reaching the playoffs would be a rarity. The last time Boston failed to make it was in 2007. The franchise has sat out the postseason just five times since 1967.
Perhaps feeling the pressure of what this could be, Bruins coach Claude Julien took some shots at his own team after Thursday’s loss.
“I don’t think we have the same team as we’ve had in the past,” Julien said. “Look at the roster — it’s not the same. You can’t live in the past. We’re trying to work with the players we have. We have a lot of young players, and we have a lot of players who have not played up to expectations.
“It’s still not too late. We have to win our next game. We can hang our heads all we want, but we have to regroup.”
Florida, meanwhile, snapped a 1-1 tie with third-period goals by center Jonathan Huberdeau and right wingers Brad Boyes and Jimmy Hayes to win the game.
Boston center Brad Marchand scored in the third period, but it was not enough.
For the Panthers (37-29-15), the game was sweet revenge since the Bruins helped eliminate them from playoff contention with a huge 3-2 win over Florida on March 31.
In addition to the win, three Panthers players attained some impressive milestones. Right winger Jaromir Jagr reached 1,800 points and is now tied for sixth in NHL history in assists and 11th in points.
“It’s fun because we won the game,” Jagr said. “You don’t get tired when you win. I’m smiling (about the milestones).”
Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo, who beat Boston’s Tuukka Rask, posted win No. 401, tying Chris Osgood for 10th place on the NHL’s career list.
Florida left winger Jussi Jokinen got career assist No. 300.
Early on, though, the game was a draw. In fact, the biggest development of the scoreless first period was that Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson left with an upper-body injury after taking a hit from Bruins right winger Brett Connolly.
The Panthers failed to score in the resulting four-minute power play as Connolly was sent to the box for boarding and roughing.
Gudbranson did not return to the game.
A second-period highlight came with 5:23 remaining, when Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic and Bruins counterpart Adam McQuaid engaged in a spirited fight. It was perhaps the most action-packed brawl for a Panthers player all season.
Finally, with 4:58 left in the first period, Boston center Patrice Bergeron scored a power-play goal to snap the scoreless tie.
The play started when defenseman Torey Krug took a shot from the point. Left winger Loui Eriksson got his stick on the rebound, and Bergeron cleaned up for his 23rd goal of the season.
The Panthers got their own power-play goal to tie the score 1-1 with 1:20 left in the second period when Jagr fed center Aleksander Barkov, who streaked down the right side and was in alone on Rask, beating him five-hole for his 16th goal of the season.
It was Barkov’s ninth point in the past nine games, and Florida closed the second period with a 14-7 shots-on-goal advantage.
With 15:58 left in the third period, Florida went ahead 2-1 on a bit of individual brilliance by Huberdeau, who got his 14th goal of the season.