Mike Hoffman scored a tiebreaking goal on the power play late in the second period and the Florida Panthers denied San Jose a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a 4-2 victory over the Sharks on Thursday night.
Hoffman also set up Frank Vatrano’s insurance goal in the third to send the Panthers to their third straight win following a six-game skid. Florida moved within seven points of Columbus for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot but has only 12 games left to make up that margin.
Jamie McGinn and Dryden Hunt also scored for the Panthers, and rookie Sam Montembeault made 26 saves to win his first career road start.
Melker Karlsson and Kevin Labanc scored for the Sharks, who had their six-game winning streak snapped. San Jose looked tired playing for the third time in four nights and missed an opportunity to become the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a postseason berth. More importantly, the Sharks failed to increase their one-point lead over second-place Calgary in the Pacific Division race. The Flames have one game in hand.
Martin Jones made 23 saves in San Jose’s second regulation loss at home since Dec. 20.
The Panthers took control of the game in the second period when they scored twice for a 3-2 lead. They tied it early in the period when Riley Sheahan won a faceoff just outside the offensive zone to Troy Brouwer, who fed Hunt for his second goal in two games after scoring none through the first 32 of his career.
Florida kept up the pressure from there but Jones managed to turn away several chances with the Sharks short-handed for more than three minutes after a double-minor to Logan Couture.
But the Panthers then capitalized on a bad line change late in the period that led to a penalty for too many men on the ice. Keith Yandle passed the puck to Hoffman, who beat Jones with a slap shot from the top of the circle for his 32nd goal of the season.
Hoffman was a member of the Sharks for a few hours back in June when he was acquired by San Jose in a deal from Ottawa before being almost immediately shipped to the Panthers in a move that helped create the salary cap room that eventually brought Erik Karlsson to San Jose. Fans even displayed a mock retired Sharks jersey for Hoffman.
Vatrano’s goal midway through the third gave the Panthers a cushion and capped his happy 25th birthday.
NOTES: Sharks D Radim Simek will need surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. … San Jose forward Evander Kane remains sidelined for personal reasons. He said Thursday that he and his wife recently lost a child during pregnancy .
Florida: Visits the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
San Jose: Hosts the Nashville Predators on Saturday.