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Panthers lose to Senators in Horachek's debut

by Sean Farrell

OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators are feeling a lot better about their fortunes of late, in stark contrast to the Florida Panthers.

Kyle Turris and Mika Zibanejad scored 19 seconds apart early in the first period, and Ottawa held on to beat Florida 3-2 on Saturday, spoiling the debut of Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek.

Clarke MacArthur scored on a 5-on-3 power play in the second period, and Robin Lehner made 26 saves in his third straight start for the Senators, who have won three in a row for the first time this season.

"We're starting to feel pretty good about ourselves," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "I thought the way we played was pretty solid, and Robin Lehner gave us another good game. We also kept the shots under 30, which certainly gives our goalies a chance to play well."

Nick Bjugstad and Marcel Goc scored for Florida, which saw its winless streak reach eight games (0-4-4). Tim Thomas, who was activated from injured reserve, stopped 29 shots in his first action since Oct. 22.

MacArthur's goal during a two-man advantage put Ottawa ahead 3-1 at 5:52 of the second period and proved to be the game-winner. Goc scored at 10:08 of the third period to draw Florida within one for the second time.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon fired coach Kevin Dineen on Friday in the wake of a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Thursday. Assistant coaches Gord Murphy and Craig Ramsay were also let go.

Horachek, who was promoted from San Antonio of the American Hockey League, was behind the bench for the first time along with new assistant coaches Brian Skrudland and John Madden, former Florida players.

Horachek wasn't pleased with his team's start but was happy with some of the effort that got the Panthers back into the game.

"You put yourself behind the eight-ball in the first couple of minutes of the game, you're down 2-0 on unforced errors, so we did it to ourselves," Horachek said. "Maybe the guys were a little bit nervous or something, I don't know, but that was kind of a tough situation to fight back. But I think there were moments of effort that were good. We just certainly can't put ourselves in that situation."

Defenseman Erik Gudbranson said the Panthers played a simplified game under the new coaching staff.

"We played a lot faster," Gudbranson said. "We put pressure on them. We made them feel uneasy and that's what we want to accomplish as a team."

The scoring came fast and furious in the early going with three goals in a little bit more than four minutes. It looked like Ottawa might run Florida out of the rink early before the Panthers scored within two minutes of falling behind 2-0.

Turris and Zibanejad took advantage of a pair of turnovers by Florida defensemen as Ottawa jumped out to the two-goal lead 2:04 after the opening faceoff.

Ryan intercepted a pass by Matt Gilroy inside the Florida blue line and drove in on Thomas, who stopped his shot. But Ryan recovered the puck in the right corner and passed to Turris, who scored his fourth goal on a shot from a sharp angle at 1:45.

That goal was still being announced when Zibanejad scored his fourth of the season 19 seconds later. Zibanejad cut off defenseman Dmitry Kulikov's pass from behind the net to new partner Gudbranson out front and put a rebound into the net off Gudbranson.

Thomas said he felt pretty good despite the rough start.

"At the beginning of the game there it started out a little scrambly and I felt a little out of sorts and I kind of wasn't awake for that first goal there," Thomas said. "I wasn't expecting a shot from that angle and I had to get back into kind of game type of thinking rather than practice, but I feel like I got better as the game went on."

So did the Panthers. Bjugstad bumped Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson to win a race to the puck in the corner, then drove to the front of the net and slipped a shot past Lehner at 4:04 for his second goal of the season.

"You've got to have a response and you've got to get back in the game," Horachek said. "If it stays 2-0 for a long period of time you're going to be tough, so getting a goal back like that, putting it close, that certainly makes a big difference and puts us in a frame of mind that you can continue to push."

Karlsson played a total of 4:16 over four shifts in the first period and sat on the bench for the final 10 minutes of the period.

"Oh, you guys noticed," Karlsson said. "Thanks for noticing. Hey, it's not a career without getting benched, ah? That's all I can say."

The 2012 Norris Trophy winner did team with Turris to set up MacArthur's power-play goal. Karlsson finished with 21:04 of ice time.

"Ah, apparently I played, right?" Karlsson said. "I mean, I must have done something right, so it is what it is and if you're not playing, well then, maybe that's what you need sometimes. I'm feeling pretty good, and the coach is the coach and I'm the player, and his words weigh heavier than mine."

Florida forward Jesse Winchester sat out the first game of his three-game suspension. Winchester was suspended by the NHL on Friday for an elbow to the head of Boston forward Chris Kelly, his former teammate with Ottawa, in the game Thursday.

Senators right wing Chris Neil wore a visor throughout the game Saturday. Neil had a couple of cuts around his right eye after he was struck in the face by the puck when he crossed into the path of a pass by Karlsson on Thursday.

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