Strong second period lifts Panthers to victory
The Florida Panthers have picked the right time to find a spark for their power play.
Richard Zednik and Bryan McCabe scored man-advantage goals late in the second period and lifted the Panthers to a 5-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.
Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss also scored for Florida, which won its third straight game. Michael Frolik added an empty-net goal with 1:32 left.
Chris Kelly and Chris Campoli both netted goals for Ottawa, which was elimnated from playoff contention.
It was Florida's third consecutive game with two power-play goals. Before the Panthers' three-game winning streak started with a 4-2 victory in Philadelphia on Thursday, Florida had converted just two of 24 power-play chances over eight games.
Craig Anderson, making his third straight start for Florida in place of Tomas Vokoun, stopped 30 shots.
The Panthers appeared to be fading from the Eastern Conference playoff picture earlier this month during a 1-4-3 skid. After a 5-3 loss to Buffalo on March 25, Florida coach Pete DeBoer replaced Vokoun with Anderson.
"He's been great over the past three games," McCabe said of Anderson. "Given us an opportunity to win every night. Even when we've had slow starts, he's shut the door."
In his first career start against the Panthers, Ottawa rookie Brian Elliott made 17 saves before he was replaced by Alex Auld in the third period. Elliott earned his first NHL shutout when he made 20 saves in a 3-0 win at Tampa Bay on Sunday.
"There are a couple of goals he probably should have had, the second one and even the third one," Ottawa coach Cory Clouston said. "Even though there was some traffic, he opened himself up and it just went right through him. He's a young guy, still growing, still has things he has to overcome."
Although the Senators have been one of the league's hottest teams of late, they playoff hopes were dashed. They had won 10 of 13, but are in 11th place in the East. Ottawa, a Stanley Cup finalist in 2007, hadn't missed the playoffs since the 1995-96 season.
"It's not something that snuck up on us," Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "We've known this situation for a long time. Our focus hasn't been only on trying to get into the playoffs, it's been on turning things around, which we definitely have, and now it's a matter of trying to keep our momentum and keep playing. Even though we didn't win today, we did a lot of great things and we've got to keep that going until the end of the season."
The Panthers, meanwhile, entered play Tuesday ninth in the East. Florida, which hasn't been to the playoffs since 2000, was one point behind Montreal. The Canadiens beat Chicago 4-1 Tuesday night.
With Brendan Bell serving a double minor for high-sticking, Zednik scored with 2:42 left in the second period. He pushed the puck through Elliott's pads to give Florida a 2-1 lead after Elliott stopped his initial shot from the side of the net. Then 1:06 later, McCabe's slap shot from the high slot went off Ottawa defenseman Anton Volchenkov and trickled into the net to make it 3-1. The goal came seconds after Alfredsson's shot went off the post.
"It's a very small margin sometimes," Alfredsson said. "That was probably the heartbreaker for us."
Weiss put the Panthers up 4-1 at 2:02 in the third period when he deflected David Booth's shot from the wing.
Campoli's shot went off the leg of Florida defenseman Karlis Skrastins to make it 4-2 at 13:27 of the third period.
Horton, who missed six games this month with a finger laceration, opened the scoring at 4:35 in the second period. He converted a pass from Cory Stillman on a 2-on-1 for his 21st goal.
Kelly tied it at 1 with 7:36 left in the second period.
This marked the final meeting between Florida and Ottawa this season. The teams hadn't faced off since Dec. 8, when Weiss' overtime goal gave the Panthers a 4-3 road win. The visiting team had won all three previous games in the season series. ... Scottie Pippen was among the 15,247 in attendance. ... Ottawa will wrap up its six-game road trip at Boston on Thursday.