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Senators extend Canadiens' struggles with 5-4 win

by John Kreiser
The Montreal Canadiens have picked the wrong time to go cold. The Ottawa Senators wish they'd gotten hot just a little bit earlier.

The Senators may be too far out of the playoff race to catch up, but if Thursday's 5-4 win over the struggling Canadiens is any indication, they'll be more than happy to play spoiler. Jason Spezza scored twice in the first period as Ottawa ended a six-game losing streak to Montreal by routing Carey Price, who was hooked after allowing four goals on 15 shots.

"We played a good game and they played pretty solid, too," Spezza said after Ottawa won its third in a row and seventh in eight games. "We had lots of chances, they had lots of chances, it was a bit of an open game, something that we haven't had lately, so it's a good game to win."

Price continues to struggle. He has won four times in 18 starts since returning from an ankle injury prior to the All-Star Game.
"I've got to take responsibility. I can't be letting goals in," Price said. "It's a group effort but I've got to play better."
The Senators have won six straight games at home for the first time since February 2007. At 30-30-10, they're back to the break-even mark for the first time since Dec. 8. Ottawa is 11 points behind the Canadiens and Hurricanes -- likely meaning they Senators will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1996.

But they have no intention of going down without a fight.

"Every time you put your gear on, it doesn't matter what the situation is, you want to win the game," forward Jarkko Ruutu said. "We don't really look at the standings, we just take it a game at a time and you never know, magic might happen, but it's not really something you worry about too much."

The Canadiens should be worried. They lost their fourth in a row and remained tied with Carolina for the last two playoff spots in the East -- both teams are just one point ahead of Florida. Montreal is 1-2-2 since GM Bob Gainey fired coach Guy Carbonneau and went behind the bench.

Guillaume Latendresse scored 2:04 into the game to put Montreal ahead, but Nick Foligno's power-play goal 51 seconds later tied it. Spezza scored twice in 52 seconds late in the period to put Ottawa ahead to stay.

Alex Tanguay's goal 48 seconds into the second period cut the margin to 3-2, but Ruutu's backhander at 2:28 put Ottawa back in front by two and sent Price to the bench in favor of Jaroslav Halak. Latendresse scored again at 10:04, but Daniel Alfredsson's goal at 14:34 put the Senators back in front by a pair before Roman Hamrlik's goal made it a one-goal game again.

But neither team scored in the third period, leaving the Canadiens 9-14-3 since Jan. 20 -- tying them for the fewest points in the East during that span. They start a five-game homestand on Saturday.

"Our team had been struggling for a while and I think the idea of changing the coach was an attempt to increase our chances the last 16 games of the season. I think you can judge how that goes after the final game," Gainey said.

Panthers 3, Maple Leafs 1
| Video

The Panthers closed within a point of a playoff spot in the East by completing the first four-game series sweep of Toronto in franchise history. Florida looked like a playoff team again after four consecutive losses dropped the Panthers into ninth place.

"We needed a win tonight," defenseman Bryan McCabe said. "We needed to get that monkey off our back. We had a really solid effort tonight. I thought we competed much harder and played the way we needed to play to win."

Florida trails Montreal and Carolina by one point; the Panthers and Canadiens have a game in hand on the Hurricanes.

"We're right back in the middle of the pack," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. "Hopefully, it gets us back mentally to a point where we can play the way we're capable of playing. And I think it will. I think it's exactly what we needed."

The game was tied 1-1 when goals by Richard Zednik and Ville Peltonen in an 87-second span put Florida ahead to stay. Zednik took a pass from David Booth and fired a shot that went between the legs of Martin Gerber at 6:21 as Toronto defenseman Andre Deveaux slid into his goalie. Peltonen made it 3-1 at 7:48 of the second with a backhander from the side of the net that trickled through Gerber's legs.

"In the second period, we got overwhelmed with some of their speed," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "Guys were just focused on the puck and not looking around. That can be a dangerous situation and it caught up to us."

Stephen Weiss put Florida ahead 7:15 into the game when he beat Anton Stralman with a deke, came in alone and put a backhander past Gerber for a shorthanded goal. Mikhail Grabovski tied it at 18:08 with a power-play goal.

The Leafs had plenty of chances -- they managed 38 shots -- but Tomas Vokoun made 37 saves.

"They've been struggling of late, having lost four," Toronto forward Jamal Mayers said. "We knew that. We couldn't quite get that second goal to hopefully make them tighten up a little bit. But you've got to give their goalie credit, he played well."

Kings 3, Bruins 2 (OT) | Video

What looked like an easy win for the Bruins against a team just about out of the playoff race turned into an overtime loss when the Kings rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the final 10:10 of regulation before Dustin Brown scored with 35 seconds in overtime for the win.

The lost point prevented the Bruins from becoming the first team in the Eastern Conference to clinch a playoff berth. They lead the race for first in the East by four points over Washington and five over New Jersey -- which comes to TD Banknorth Garden on Sunday.

The Kings, 13th in the West, now have 70 points after winning the opener of a six-game road trip.

"It's a huge win for us," Brown said. "We've shown we could come back many times this year and this is just another one, but it just happened to be against one of the better teams in the league."

Though the Bruins reached the 100-point mark for the season, they fell to 6-9-4 in their last 19 games after going 39-8-6 in their first 53.

"We're going to have to start outworking other teams from start to finish like we were earlier in the season," Boston coach Claude Julien said, "and your best players are going to have to find their game and be the best they can be in order for us to get out of it."

Matt Hunwick scored 14:48 into the game, and Mark Recchi made it 2-0 at 3:48 of the second period with his fourth goal in eight games since being acquired from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline.

That looked like it would be more than enough as the clock ticked along in the third period, but the Kings got some life when Aaron Ward took a hooking penalty at the 8-minute mark. The power play had almost expired when Michal Handzus picked up a rebound at the left post at backhanded it into a wide-open net at 9:50.

"We left them in the game and kind of made believers out of them," Boston goalie Tim Thomas said.

The Kings tied it on rookie defenseman Drew Doughty's fifth goal. Wayne Simmonds' shot from just in front of Thomas hit the post to the goalie's left and ricocheted to Doughty, who drove to the net and knocked in the rebound before being flattened.

Brown won it when he cashed in a rebound after Thomas stopped Sean O'Donnell's wide-open shot to keep the Kings' flickering playoff hopes alive.

"To start this off with a win in Boston," coach Terry Murray said, "was very important to have that kind of feeling and build some momentum here at the start for the rest of the trip."

Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report

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