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Senators fail to climb Eastern standings with loss

by Erin Nicks

OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators remain in eighth place in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after losing to the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 Saturday night at Scotiabank Place.

The Flyers (23-22-3) won their fourth straight game to finish their regular season. Ottawa native Jason Akeson scored in his NHL debut, and Jakub Voracek added one for Philadelphia. Kyle Turris had the goal for the Senators.

Steve Mason made 43 saves for the win. Craig Anderson, 4-3-0 in his past seven starts, turned away 23 of 25 shots for the Senators (24-17-6).

"We played as [well] as we wanted to," Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson said. "We created a lot of scoring chances, but we just couldn't beat [Mason]. He played unbelievable for them. [The Flyers] play good defense and kept us to the outside for the most part. Sometimes, there's not much you can do."

Ottawa could have climbed to sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a win, and would have had a chance to reach fifth with a win Sunday against the Boston Bruins in the NHL regular-season finale. The Senators continue to struggle finding offense: The club has scored five goals in its past four games and went 0-for-5 on the power play Saturday.

"It's not much that's going to make the difference [between scoring or not scoring]," captain Daniel Alfredsson said. "We're hitting the post; we're right there. We just have to keep putting ourselves in a position where we do get a lot of chances."

Coach Paul MacLean said, "The shots flattered us a little bit. … Frustration is a useless emotion. We just have to get better at it."

The Flyers started the scoring 3:46 into the game when Anderson found himself in a 1-on-1 battle with Claude Giroux. The captain tried to push the puck past Anderson's pads, but it popped out into traffic, eventually landing on Akeson's stick. The wing wristed the puck high into the left corner.

After the game, Akeson was all smiles in the dressing room as he had his picture taken with his treasured "first goal" puck.

"It's pretty exciting just to get the chance to play in an NHL game," Akeson said. "It's something I'll always remember. I got to score a goal, and that makes it so much more special."

Akeson, a 22-year-old undrafted free agent, had plenty of family and friends in the stands for the game and was grateful for their support.

"I heard them cheer a little bit [after the goal]," Akeson said. "But at the time, you're so excited and there's so many emotions going through your body. I'm just thankful they were there to see it."

The Senators had several opportunities to score in the first period but were unable to capitalize. At the 11-minute mark, Mika Zibanejad passed across the slot to Milan Michalek, but the wing was stopped by the left pad of Mason. Zibanejad went to the net to see if he could capture the rebound but was stymied by the Flyers goaltender for the second save.

With 8:05 left in the period, Karlsson nearly tied the game. Kyle Turris dished a saucer pass from beside the left side of the net to the defenseman in the high slot. Karlsson sent a hard shot toward Mason, but it hit the left post.

In the second period, the Senators would continue with the pressure they applied during the final minutes of the first. Chris Phillips sent the puck from the right corner in front to Turris, who wristed it high into the net, tying the score 1-1 at 4:35. Phillips picked up his 200th career assist.

In the dying seconds of the period, Turris almost scored his second of the night when he sent a blast from the high slot toward Mason, forcing the Flyers goaltender to make a glove save.

The Flyers took a 2-1 lead in the third period when Senators defenseman Eric Gryba was caught in the Philadelphia zone and couldn't rejoin the play. Erik Gustafsson gained control of the puck and skated into the Ottawa zone. He passed to Voracek, who beat Anderson stick side with a wrist shot at 10:02.

With that goal, the Flyers went into lockdown mode on defense, and Mason stood tall in net to hold on for the win.

The postseason picture remains murky for the Senators, who travel to face the Bruins on Sunday. The Senators can finish no higher than seventh place, but their first-round opponent will be decided by myriad variables. If Ottawa loses in regulation to Boston, it will face the Pittsburgh Penguins. If the Senators lose after regulation play, they will play the Bruins. But if Ottawa wins in Boston in regulation, overtime or shootout, the club will face the Montreal Canadiens.

MacLean said his team will not be getting any breaks Sunday, despite having clinched a playoff spot.

"We're going to play the best team that gives us the best chance to win the game," MacLean said. "That's what we were going to do, anyway. Whatever we decide is the best roster, that's the team that plays."

Anderson pointed out that the different options for opponents can't become a distraction.

"We just have to continue to get better; we have to look at ourselves and think about the way we're playing," Anderson said. "This is about us, not about anybody else."

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