Sens rally around Alfie, beat Panthers

Ottawa Senators' Daniel Alfredsson celebrates his assist with team mates against the Florida...

Ottawa Senators' Daniel Alfredsson celebrates his assist with team mates against the Florida Panthers. (REUTERS/Doug Murray)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:21 PM ET

SUNRISE, Fla. The Senators delivered the best present possible for captain Daniel Alfredsson in his 1,000th NHL game.

A victory and a 60-minute effort.

While Alfredsson picked up an assist for his 990th career point, the Senators made it a special night with a 5-2 victory over the Panthers as they locked up no worse than fifth spot in the Eastern Conference and will face either the Penguins or Devils in the first round of the playoffs.

The Sabres beat the Rangers 5-2 Tuesday night to clinch first place in the Northeast Division.

Mike Fisher had two goals, Chris Neil had a goal and two assists, while Erik Karlsson and Jarkko Ruutu also scored for Ottawa.

Goaltender Pascal Leclaire, who hadnt won a game since Dec. 31, picked up the victory with 32 stops in what could have been his last game of the season.

All eyes were on Alfredsson, who became the 44th player in NHL history to reach the 1,000-game-played plateau with one team.

It feels good, obviously, to win and youll remember this game fondly, said Alfredsson, who was hugged by his teammates at the buzzer. Everybody was in a good mood afterwards congratulating me for the win. It was a great day throughout the whole day from the morning skate until now.

I thought we played a really good game. I felt good. All four lines played well. Everybody contributed. It was a good effort. A lot of fun. Obviously, winning kind of makes the atmosphere even better.

Alfredsson was given a light round of applause by the sparse gathering during the second stoppage in play.

The Senators will honour him Saturday at home when the Sabres visit.

Fisher said the players were thrilled to win for Alfredsson.

It seemed like offensively we were getting quite a few chances and when we had them we buried them. It was a good road win, said Fisher. It was a big night and obviously a special one for him.

For all of us to be part of it, he has done so much, a win makes it that much more enjoyable.

It was a memorable night for Neil, too, landing a Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal, two assists and a fight. Actually, he didnt even score his goal.

The marker was a result of Florida defenceman Keith Ballard gloving the puck into his own net past Tomas Vokoun.

Neil said he didnt have much sympathy for Ballard.

Youll take them any way you can get them, said Neil. I dont see guys complaining when they score into an empty net.

It was no surprise Leclaire got the start. The club wanted to give starter Brian Elliott a rest before the playoffs and Leclaire hadnt played since March 20.

(The win) is good for his confidence. He looked stable, he looked poised and he was on top of the crease for the most part, said Senators coach Cory Clouston. As far as his structure, that was as good as Ive seen him in a long time. He was very comfortable in the net.

The Senators wrap up their three-game road trip Thursday in Tampa.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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