Great effort as Sens tame Panthers

Senators forward Zack Smith fights with Panthers forward Matt Bradley at BankAtlantic Center in...

Senators forward Zack Smith fights with Panthers forward Matt Bradley at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., Feb. 15, 2012. (RHONA WISE/Reuters)

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:20 PM ET

SUNRISE, FLA. - Earlier in the day, coach Paul MacLean had mentioned that part of the Senators' challenge this season was in meshing together "a veteran group and a younger group from Binghamton."

The two came together quite nicely against the Florida Panthers Wednesday night.

Consider not only all the firsts, but the intertwining done in bulging the twine:

In his seventh NHL game, Jim O'Brien scored his first goal. It was a big one, too, in that it gave the Senators what has become for them the all-important first lead.

"It was more just relief, it was kind of building up," said O'Brien of his first goal. "It's just a great feeling."

Kaspars Daugavins scored his fourth, which was also his first in 38 games, and added an assist. The helper was a sweet pass that sent Daniel Alfredsson in on a short-handed breakaway. The captain made no mistake with a deke that represented the 13th time he has hit the 20-goal plateau.

Bobby Butler, who scored 45 goals while splitting time between Binghamton and Ottawa, picked up his first goal in more than a month, and Filip Kuba scored his first in 17 games.

Brian Lee also had the first multi-point game of his career, with two assists.

"It's a big win for us, we needed the two points," said Lee. "I think the guys wanted to work hard and play well so we didn't get too much grief from our dads on the way home."

Milan Michalek also scored as the team's "first line" continued to soar. Its centre, Jason Spezza, had three more assists to give him 13 points in his last five games. It all added to a 6-2 taming of a Panthers team that had won its three previous games.

"We got contributions from everyone," said Spezza. "We knew we only had two games this week, so we kind of left it all out there (Wednesday)."

The Ottawa victory, in front of a reported 14,038 at BankAtlantic Center, moved the Senators into a tie with New Jersey at 68 points, one back of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

And yes, Senators' fathers now have a 5-0-1 record all-time, after their boys impressively won both games on this year's annual trip.

Alfredsson was pleased to see O'Brien get his first goal in Florida, just like he did back in 1995-96.

"Not knowing how things were going to go coming into this year, I knew if I could stay healthy I could get to 20," said Alfredsson. "It feels good. Hopefully, I can keep pushing and who knows, maybe even flirt with 30."

Craig Anderson played another strong game in the Ottawa goal, stopping 42 shots. Centre Zack Smith, who desperately needed to get in a fight, had two of them.

Ottawa broke a 1-1 tie with three unanswered goals in the second period to chase Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen.

MacLean thought rookie defenceman Jared Cowen, who has struggled of late, was outstanding.

The Senators now get to sit back and watch teams move closer to them In the games played category. Their next action is Monday afternoon in Long Island.


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