SUNRISE, Fla. -- Florida Panthers fans used to throw plastic rats on the ice to honor their heroes' goals.
Wednesday night, Florida's frustrated fans mockingly littered the ice with giveaway hats following Anson Carter's first career hat trick which wrapped up a 5-2 Boston victory and clinched a playoff spot for the Bruins.
A few weeks ago, the Panthers believed that they would gain a playoff berth.
"It's probably the most embarrassing night we've had in south Florida," said captain Scott Mellanby, an original Panther. "When our fans throw hats for the opposing player, that's hard to take."
Boston's fourth straight victory boosted its record to 36-28-13 for 85 points, and eliminated the New York Rangers from the playoff race.
The Bruins also officially dashed Florida's chances of catching Boston for the final spot. However, because Carolina lost 2-0 to Montreal, the Panthers -- who lost their season-high fifth straight game -- are still mathematically alive for a playoff berth currently held by the Southeast Division-leading Hurricanes. Florida trails Carolina by eight points with five left.
A disgusted Mellanby held a 20-minute, players-only, closed-door meeting following the game and the mood in the locker room was somber.
"The self-destruction, the turnovers, the giveaways, the clearings, it's just very frustrating to see after this many games," Panthers coach Terry Murray said.
Boston goaltender Bryan DaFoe, who had posted two straight shutouts, finished with 16 saves for his 30th win. It tied his career high set last year and earned him a $50,000 incentive bonus.
"We just clinched the playoffs and it's huge," DaFoe said. "We're looking ahead and there's some pressure, but we're not going to pack it in the next five games."
Carter broke a 1-1 tie with his first goal of the night at 9:38 of the second period and then Dmitri Khristich's 29th goal padded Boston's lead to 3-1 after two periods.
With the teams skating 4-on-4, Carter wrapped up Boston's seventh victory in its last 11 games (7-1-3) when he scored on a rebound at 10:06 of the third for a 4-1 Bruins lead.
"We're playing well of late," said Bruins coach Pat Burns. "This team answered it (making the playoffs), and that's the hard part. After making the playoffs, our next goal is to make it an extra round."
Ryan Johnson scored with 6:09 left to cut Boston's lead to two goals, but Carter added his third goal and 21st of the season for his first career hat trick with 1:54 left.
"It's great, but more importantly we're in the playoffs," Carter said. "I just wanted to play well and show that I was a big part of the team."
At that point, instead of rats, the hats rained down for an opposing player's accomplishment.
"It's disheartening, it's embarrassing," Mellanby said. "The people pay their money, it's their perogative."
Florida took a 1-0 lead at 4:32 of the first period on Robert Svehla's long slap shot, his first goal since Feb. 20 and the first against Dafoe in his last 164 minutes and 43 seconds. Rob DiMaio's breakaway goal, a backhander past Kirk McLean 2:42 into the second period, made it 1-1.