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Senators top Panthers 4-3 in OT

by Erin Nicks /
KANATA, Ont. -- Bobby Butler made it a merrier Christmas for 19,296 fans at Scotiabank Place.

Butler scored 2:02 into overtime to give the Ottawa Senators a 4-3 victory against Florida on Thursday night, their eighth consecutive victory against the Panthers -- and one that came after they were unable to hang onto three one-goal leads.

Tomas Kopecky's sixth-attacker goal with goaltender Scott Clemmensen on the bench and 1:12 remaining in regulation sent the game into overtime. But Butler won in when he took Kyle Turris' pass from the right point and blasted a slap shot from the left circle that hit the skate of defenseman Brian Campbell and deflected through Clemmensen's legs.

"I was down by the left dot and (Turris) just saw me and threw it at me," Butler said after scoring his first goal since Nov. 15. "Good things happen when you put it to the net."

Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson had three points, while Chris Neil and Erik Karlsson each had a goal and an assist. Michal Repik and Shawn Matthias also scored for Florida, which hasn't beaten the Senators since Jan. 9, 2010 and has lost both meetings this season.

Craig Anderson made 32 saves to improve to 6-0-1 against his former team. Clemmensen stopped 22 shots.

Ottawa opened the scoring 6:58 into the game when Neil redirected Erik Karlsson's slap shot from the high slot past Clemmensen for a power-play goal.

Florida tied the game with a power-play goal of its own after Nick Foligno was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for charging Keaton Ellerby at 3:01 of the second period. Kris Versteeg's shot from the point was redirected by Repik past Anderson for his first of the season at 6:37. The Panthers nearly went up 2-1 late in the second, when a shot by Matthias went under Anderson's arm and nearly crossed the goal line before Erik Condra swatted it away.

The loss of Foligno further depleted Ottawa's supply of forwards. Milan Michalek, who is out with a concussion, won't return until after Christmas, and Ottawa is also without Peter Regin, who is out indefinitely after re-aggravating his left shoulder against Buffalo on Tuesday.

"With only 10 guys, you become a lot more aware, and you want to step your game up a little bit more," Butler said.

The game opened up in the third period, and Ottawa went ahead at 7:38 when Clemmensen misplayed the puck behind the net and Neil fed Alfredsson, who tipped it in for a power-play goal. Alfredsson now has nine points in four games and admits that he's feeling good after an injury-plagued season in 2010-11.

 "I think health-wise, I feel like I'm skating and getting up and down the ice at the rate I'd like to," Alfredsson said. "It's nice to be able to join the rushes and be back for the backcheck. Playing with (Spezza), of course that helps – he finds the open guys, and opens things up for me."

When Condra went to the box just 22 seconds later for hooking, the Panthers were able to tie it after Mattias took a pass from Campbell and beat Anderson at 9:05.

The tie lasted just 37 seconds before Karlsson's high slap shot hit the crossbar and toppled behind Clemmensen at 9:43. It was Karlsson's 33rd point of the season, the most among NHL defensemen.

But Florida earned a point when Versteeg got the puck to Kopecky, who slid the puck under a sprawling Anderson. Versteeg, the Panthers' leading scorer with 37 points, has 11 points in his last 10 games.

It was a tough pill to swallow for the Panthers, who got one point but felt they let one get away.

"It's tough; they're a good hockey club," Matthias said. "It was like that game (against Phoenix; a 2-1 loss on Tuesday) – it was right to the end. They came at us with everything they had. I think we got stuck in their game plan a little bit. We play a run-and-gun style, and that's what cost us in the end. We've got a game tomorrow, so we just have to forget about it and focus."

Florida's top-line center, Stephen Weiss, left early in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return. It was yet another loss for the Panthers who have been plagued by injuries, and are hoping to get some bodies back after the Christmas break.

"It'd be nice to get a few guys back," Campbell said. "There are a lot of teams dealing with it; I think we're getting hit pretty good. Seven forwards lost, it's tough. But, nobody cares. Ottawa didn't care tonight. Nobody's going to give us a free go, so we've got to move forward."

Both teams have games on Friday before the Christmas break. Florida moves on to Boston, while the Senators visit Carolina.
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