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Sens score with 2.5 seconds left to beat Panthers 4-3

by Erin Nicks
KANATA, Ont. -- The Ottawa Senators may start out slow, but they finish strong -- and as long as the wins keep coming, they will be happy to take them.

Nick Foligno scored with 2.5 seconds left in regulation, capping a wild last three minutes and giving the Senators a 4-3 victory against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at Scotiabank Place.

"It was nice to help out the team," Foligno said. "We have a knack for winning in dramatic fashion this season."

Colin Greening put Ottawa ahead 3-2 when he scored with 2:07 left in regulation by beating Jacob Markstrom through the legs from the slot, only to have Florida's Kris Versteeg pull the Panthers even with 47 seconds remaining. But with overtime looming, Foligno became the second Senator in the past week to score the game-winner in the final five seconds of regulation when he beat Markstrom on the last of Ottawa's 38 shots.

Milan Michalek's goal with 4.7 seconds remaining gave the Senators a 4-3 win against Columbus on Saturday.

Ottawa is on a roll, pulling back up to .500 (5-5-0) after winning four games in a row. The Panthers fell to 5-4-0, putting an end to their two-game winning streak.

"I thought in the third period we came out and hit the pedal right away," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said. "We hit the gas and that's what we wanted to do."

"Never doubt" has become the unofficial slogan for this Senators team -- some of the players were heard shouting the phrase after Foligno's late heroics.

"I think it's a good expression," MacLean said. "To me, if you come here every day, and you're going to do it right, good things are going to go your way."

Ottawa continues to feed on that positive mentality, regardless of the situation.

"It's a confidence booster," goaltender Craig Anderson said. "We just keep finding ways to win the hard games. It's real easy to play when you're up by five goals."

Anderson could have easily lost his composure early on in the game. He was beaten on the first shot he faced when Jason Garrison ripped a slap shot through the five-hole at 4:42 of the first period. It marked the seventh time in 10 games that the Senators have surrendered the first goal of the game.

But Daniel Alfredsson got the Senators on the board 5:27 into the second when he pounced on a loose puck from Jason Spezza and wired a high wrister over the shoulder of Markstrom. Spezza increased his scoring streak to five games, during which he has four goals and nine points.

The Panthers regained the lead 68 seconds later when Stephen Weiss fired a one-timer from the slot past Anderson after some beautiful passing from Tomas Fleischmann and Dmitri Kulikov.

Ottawa got even again at 14:14 when Stephane Da Costa, fresh from serving a tripping penalty, jumped into a 2-on-1 break, took a saucer pass from Erik Condra and beat Markstrom with a one-timer for his second goal. The rookie was grateful for the chance to make up for his mistake.

"(My penalty) was a trip for sure, but it was bad luck," Da Costa said. "I got a good bounce, but it was a great pass (from Condra) through a really tiny hole."

The late loss was a bitter pill to swallow for the Panthers. Florida is on a three-game road trip, and after squeezing out a 2-1 win in Montreal on Monday, the Panthers were hoping for another two points in Ottawa before moving on to Buffalo on Saturday.

"Not to come out with any points is really disappointing, frustrating … there are a lot of words for it," defenseman Brian Campbell said. "We feel we're a playoff team, but we can't give away points like that. It's unacceptable on all our parts, especially giving up late goals like that. We're trying to change the mindset here, and that's a situation we have to fix."
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