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Hammond helps Senators top Panthers for 2nd in row

by Chris Stevenson

OTTAWA -- Goaltender Andrew Hammond won his second straight NHL start, and the Ottawa Senators won two games in a row for the first time in seven weeks, a 4-1 victory against the Florida Panthers at Canadian Tire Centre on Saturday.

Hammond, a 27-year-old in his fourth NHL game, made 21 saves. He is playing because of injuries to goaltenders Craig Anderson (hand) and Robin Lehner (concussion).

"You want to help the team win, and when you feel like you're a part of it, and you're helping the team kind of get that common goal, it's pretty rewarding," Hammond said.

Kyle Turris had a goal and two assists, and Bobby Ryan, Erik Karlsson and Curtis Lazar scored for the Senators (24-23-10), who had last won two in a row Dec. 29 and Jan. 3. Ottawa hasn't won three in a row since the second week of the season.

Milan Michalek had two assists to give him eight points (four goals, four assists) in his past six games. Karlsson has two goals and eight assists in his past six games.

On Feb. 10, the Senators were 14 points out of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. This win put them seven points behind the Boston Bruins.

"It's another step forward," said Hammond, who defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 Wednesday. "We're obviously still a little ways to go for the playoff [spot], but I think the last two games have helped us, and you can't really count yourselves out until you're mathematically eliminated."

Hammond made his best save Saturday midway through the third period with the Senators leading 3-1, moving to his right to get his pad on a shorthanded chance by Tomas Kopecky.

"He's played two solid games for us and given us the confidence back there. We couldn't ask for anything else," Karlsson said. "I think the guys are doing a great job not giving up the odd-man rushes. We're scoring when we have to, and if you score four you should win."

Aleksander Barkov scored for the Panthers (26-20-12), who had a two-game winning streak end. Florida is one point behind Boston for the second wild card.

Roberto Luongo made 35 saves for the Panthers, who play the fourth game of a five-game road trip Sunday at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"It's a wasted opportunity," Luongo said. "It was a tough one tonight, but we have another game tomorrow, so we'll put this one behind us and move on here.

"It was one of those games where we didn't have it. Coming into the third, we're down one, which is a situation we've been accustomed to, but for some reason we didn't have the period we wanted."

Florida coach Gerard Gallant called it the Panthers' most disappointing effort of the season.

"Ottawa played good, but I didn't like our game at all," he said. "We didn't play well at all. We didn't work hard. We didn't compete hard. It was the longest night for me behind the Florida bench this year, for sure.

"[The Senators] moved the puck and we couldn't establish a forecheck. We didn't have any work ethic. I had two or three guys that I thought played real hard, but I thought we played a real poor game. We didn't show up to work hard enough."

The Senators took a 2-1 lead with the only goal of the second period on a deflection by Ryan that came as a penalty to Kopecky expired.

Working to the right of Luongo and facing Turris out at the top of the left-wing circle, Ryan got his stick on Turris' shot and redirected it over Luongo's shoulder at 8:40 for his 15th of the season.

Karlsson's shot went against the grain to the top corner over Luongo's glove to make it 3-1 at 8:03 of the third period. Lazar scored at 12:09.

"I've got to try to make that save on Karlsson to keep it at 2-1 and give the boys a chance there," Luongo said. "It's a disappointing night for everybody."

The Senators tied the game 1-1 on Turris' goal at 10:16 of the first period. He finished a nice three-way passing play that started when Michalek lifted the stick of Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad in the right-wing corner. Michalek passed the puck to Mark Stone in the circle, and he spotted Turris going to the net at the left post.

Florida forward Shawn Thornton got his stick on the puck, but not enough to stop it from getting to Turris, whose shot found the open side.

The Panthers led 1-0 on Barkov's ninth goal of the season at 7:38 of the first period.

Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell, using his strong skating, brought the puck down the right-wing boards and below the goal line. He found Jonathan Huberdeau in front of Hammond, and Huberdeau touched it quickly to Barkov.

Barkov's shot went underneath a sprawling Hammond and over the goal line before Hammond reached back and pulled the puck out of the net.

The Senators open a five-game, 10-day road trip Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

"We've got momentum going now," Lazar said. "To win back-to-back games for the first time in a while, it's big for our hockey club. I think we're seven points back of a playoff spot, and each and every game is an opportunity to get closer. We know it's going to be tough in California, but we're ready to go."

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