The last time the Florida Panthers made the playoffs, Bill Clinton was president and Metallica was suing Napster. The NASDAQ had just reached an all-time high. Elian Gonzalez was soon to be seized by feds at gunpoint. 'N Sync was breaking album sales records, AOL was purchasing Time Warner, and Ben Affleck was dating Gwyneth Paltrow. (The world would not be introduced to the concept of "Bennifer" for another couple years.)
It's been more than a decade since that Panthers postseason appearance, the longest active drought in hockey. (The Toronto Maple Leafs, who haven't made the playoffs since 2004, are second on that dismal list.) But it looked as though it would be finally coming to an end — or at least getting a new beginning — on Tuesday night. The Panthers, who could clinch with a win over the Winnipeg Jets, certainly started off the game on track: Tomas Fleischmann's goal just 25 seconds into the second period gave Florida a comfortable 3-0 lead.
A little toooooo comfortable.