Cat's meow for Sens

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

The Senators didn't get a victory last night, but everybody left Scotiabank Place with a smile.

A cheer went up with 1:40 left in the third period when Ottawa fans learned old friend Jacques Martin pulled a few strings in Raleigh and helped book the Senators a trip to the NHL's post-season for the 11th straight season.

While the Senators dropped a 2-1 decision to the Bruins in their final regular-season game, it was a 4-3 victory by the Martin-coached Panthers over Carolina which booked spots in the playoffs for Ottawa ... and Boston.

"Months ago we said, get 94 points we'd be in. Getting 94 points is not backing in," said Senators coach and GM Bryan Murray. "We deserve to be in. Jacques Martin did a heck of a job for us."

Only Antoine Vermette was able to beat Boston goalie Tim Thomas at 11:46 of the third period, while Zdeno Chara and Phil Kessel replied for Bruins.

The Senators picked up only three wins in their final eight games.

The task is going to be difficult after the Senators learned yesterday that they'll have to start the playoffs without injured captain Daniel Alfredsson and centre Mike Fisher, both of whom are expected to miss the first round.

Still, the Senators were breathing a collective sigh of relief when the clock struck zero in Raleigh. The Capitals need a point tonight against the Panthers in Washington to knock the Hurricanes out of the playoff picture.

It took the entire 82-game season, but after getting off to an NHL-best 15-2 start to the season, the Senators avoided the embarrassment of having one of the biggest meltdowns in league history by making it to the post-season.

"We wish we had a lot more points after our start, but 94 points is a pretty good year," said Ottawa winger Chris Neil. "We got to the playoffs and we deserve to be here."

NO OPPONENT YET

The Senators don't know who they're going to face or when the series will start, but at this point the club is just happy to be alive to play another day because there were times it looked pretty grim.

Without Alfredsson and Fisher in the lineup, Murray was forced to do a patchwork job with the offensive units. He reunited Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, but moved veteran Martin Lapointe to the right side.

Vermette, coming off his first career hat trick against the Leafs on Thursday, was moved to centre with Cory Stillman on his left and Shean Donovan on the right.

Unfortunately, that didn't exactly spark the offence. Scoring goals against the Bruins isn't easy on the best of nights, but the Senators had a difficult time even getting opportunities on Thomas.

After two periods, Heatley and Spezza had only two shots between them. That's why when Kessel gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead at 4:21 of the third period, it pretty much settled the issue.

POWER PLAY WEAK

The Senators are fortunate they're going to have a few days to prepare for the playoffs. The club is going to have to get used to life without its top players and Murray needs some time to get his units back together.

The Senators only had two power-play chances last night, but they didn't look good without Alfredsson and Fisher.

"We would have liked to get (into the playoffs) on our own, but we feel good nonetheless," said Heatley.


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