Panthers try to close in on playoff berth in Minnesota

The Florida Panthers will try to move closer to clinching their first playoff appearance in 12 years when they visit the Minnesota Wild in tonight's interconference battle at Xcel Energy Center.

Florida has made just three trips to the postseason since joining the NHL for the 1993-94 campaign and the Panthers' last playoff appearance was in the spring of 2000.

The Panthers are currently five points ahead of Washington with six games left for Florida and five remaining in the Capitals' regular-season schedule. Washington, which is two points behind Buffalo for the last playoff spot in the East, is playing tonight in Boston.

Florida was able to end a three-game slide with Tuesday's shootout victory in Montreal, improving the Panthers' record to 6-1-2 in their last nine contests.

The Panthers trailed the Canadiens by a 2-1 score after two periods, but Mikael Samuelsson evened the score with 7:12 left in regulation. Wojtek Wolski, who also tallied in regulation for Florida, scored the lone goal of the shootout to lift the Panthers to the 3-2 decision at the Bell Centre.

Scott Clemmensen stopped 27 shots through regulation and overtime for Florida.

"It was a good thing we got those two points tonight," Clemmensen said. "We knew coming in that we have to get as many points as possible. There are teams below us in the standings that are still alive so we need them. That's why tonight's win was big."

The Panthers opened a four-game road trip on Tuesday and improved its record as the guest to 17-15-5. Florida will complete the swing with stops this weekend in Columbus and Detroit.

Minnesota has been eliminated from postseason contention out West and has not played well in the spoiler role, losing its last three tests in regulation.

The Wild's latest setback came Tuesday against the New York Rangers, who earned the 3-2 victory thanks in part to Ruslan Fedotenko's game-winning tally in the third period.

Kyle Brodziak and Mikko Koivu had power-play goals for the Wild, who have lost 11 of their last 14, and Josh Harding gave up three goals on 32 shots.

"I'm not in a very good mood right now," said Wild head coach Mike Yeo after the loss. "We gave them a freebie in a 2-2 game. We gave them a tap-in and that can't happen."

The setback dropped Minnesota's record at home this season to 17-16-4.

Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom could see his first action in net tonight since suffering a lower-body injury on March 1. He backed up Harding in Tuesday's game after Minnesota assigned goaltender Matthew Hackett to the Wild's AHL affiliate in Houston.

Minnesota is 8-2-1 with a tie in its 12 all-time meetings against the Panthers. Florida posted a 3-2 shootout win the last time it visited St. Paul on March 9, 2010, bringing the Panthers' all-time mark at the Xcel Energy Center to 1-3 with a tie.