As the Florida Panthers start a four-game home stand vs. the Ottawa Senators, the home team looked for an opportunity to build their lead in the Southeast Division and keep their club in a strong playoff position, while the visitors found themselves within three points of home ice advantage.
With both sides motivated, the difference came down to a combination of special teams and goaltending to determine the winner, and the Ottawa Senators had both in spades.
With the Panthers surrendering the first goal for the fifth time in their last six games, it would be a memorable one for Jim O'Brien, who scored his first NHL goal on a wraparound try against Scott Clemmensen.
Former Panther Craig Anderson would get the start for Ottawa against his old club, and the netminder turned aside several early chances before the Panthers finally tied the game on a Shawn Matthias wrister that tucked just inside the top corner of the net.
The goal and a late-period power play would power Florida for 14 shots in the opening period, but the game would be tied at 1 as the second period opened, though that would not last long.
Kaspars Daugavins would clean up a loose puck in the crease early in the period to put Ottawa ahead, and Bobby Butler would follow just over two minutes later on a perfect setup courtesy of Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza.
Matt Bradley would challenge Zack Smith in an attempt to get the Panthers bench back into the game, and the Panthers were able to draw back-to-back power plays, but the situation would backfire. Chasing the puck into the neutral zone on the PK, Daniel Alfredsson would burst through the Panther defense before charging down Clemmensen and slamming the puck home.
That goal would mark the end of the night for Clemmensen, with Jose Theodore returning to the Florida crease. The veteran netminder was able to staunch the bleeding through the end of the second period, but the Senators would extend their lead to five goals when Michalek tipped an Erik Karlsson shot from the point, redirecting it from just outside the crease.
With the Panthers back on the power play for the fourth time in the game, Brian Campbell would maneuver the puck through traffic before finding a shooting lane, and Sean Bergenheim would redirect the shot past Anderson to bring the Panthers back within three goals.
Unfortunately, Florida would be unable to break through the Senators' defense again, while Ottawa would put one last goal on the board, this time a power play tally from Filip Kuba, to finish a 6-2 victory in style.
With Florida firing 44 shots on net, the play of Anderson cannot be overstated -- this was an exceptional performance by the Ottawa netminder -- just five saves short of the franchise record that Anderson, himself, set last season.