A short turnaround could be just what the Florida Everblades need as they begin their playoff run Monday night on the heels of Saturday's regular-season-ending 5-2 win over the Gwinnett Gladiators at Germain Arena.
The win is the second straight for the Blades over their South Division-winning rival as they enter the playoffs on a legitimate hot streak winning five of their last six home games, all against divisional foes the Everblades could meet in the playoffs after the first round.
"It was an emotional game, but it wasn't over the top," said Blades coach Greg Poss. "We did a really good job, for the most part, controlling the game. In general it was a real good last game for us."
As in Friday night's win, the Everblades jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first period.
Two goals came 35 seconds apart with less than three minutes to play. Leigh Salters scored first, on a highlight-worthy goal that began with Matt Beca feeding a pass between the legs of a defender to Trevor Bruess, who then slid the puck back to Salters for the easy 1-2-3 goal.
David Rutherford followed with his 25th goal of the year. After the Blades won the face off, Rutherford converted a pass from Brayden Irwin.
The Gladiators responded in the second period, beating Everblades goaltender Pat Nagle (35 saves). Following nearly back-to-back penalty kills midway through the period, the Blades settled down defensively and retook a two-goal lead on Matt Marquardt's 22nd goal of the season. Florida had all the insurance they needed to carry them into the playoffs.
"It's huge to be playing so well heading into the playoffs," said team captain Mathieu Roy. "I think it's good, too, that we play again right away because we are playing well, especially on home ice."
The Blades' remaining goals came in the third period, on Brayden Irwin's 17th goal of the year and Mike Ratchuk's 11th goal of the season.
The win solidifies the Everblades as a strong fifth seed for the playoffs that begin Monday night at Germain Arena against No. 4 seed Greenville.