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Senators' playoff hopes end despite win

The SportsXchange

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Thanks to the result of a game played more than 550 miles west of Nassau Coliseum, a three-goal third period Tuesday night wasn't enough to save the Ottawa Senators' playoff hopes.

Still, it provided a template for how the Senators want to approach the final three meaningless games of the season.

Center Jason Spezza's second goal of the game began a three-goal outburst over the final seven-plus minutes, and the Senators beat the New York Islanders 4-1.

Upon getting back to their locker room, the Senators (34-31-14) learned they were eliminated from playoff contention thanks to the Columbus Blue Jackets' 4-3 overtime win over the visiting Phoenix Coyotes.

"It's the position we put ourselves in," Spezza said. "We haven't collected enough points. Can't leave it up to the other teams to lose games because everybody wins this time of year."

Including the Senators, who are 6-2-1 in their past nine games. The late hot streak wasn't enough to undo the damage Ottawa suffered while going 2-8-2 from Feb. 8 through March 22.

"We've had chances all year to get going -- we haven't been that far out of it," Spezza said. "We just didn't play good enough hockey."

Despite missing the playoffs for the third time in the past six years, Spezza hopes the Senators -- who host the New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs before visiting the Pittsburgh Penguins in Sunday's season finale -- can take some pride in playing better down the stretch.

"I think we owe it to the organization and we owe it to each other to try, the next three games, (to) end on a more positive note than the way the season's been," Spezza said.

Spezza's second-period goal was the Senators' only score among 19 shots over the first 40 minutes. The Islanders tied it in the first minute of the third on center Frans Nielsen's put-back goal before Ottawa scored three times in the third period on 13 shots.

"After giving up the goal to tie it, I thought we responded and dictated the play a little bit more than we did for the previous two periods of the game and found a way to win the game," Senators coach Paul MacLean said. "It's always good to win."

The Senators scored the game-winner thanks in part to some persistence by Spezza, who motioned frantically for a replay after the red light above the net didn't go on. His shot bounced off the back of Islanders goaltender Anders Nilsson and over the red line before it clanged off the left post and out of the goalmouth.

Officials convened at the next stoppage and the goal was awarded to Spezza with 7:15 remaining -- the exact amount of time that was left when he scored in the second period.

"I was trying to make sure that it was well-known that it was in the net," Spezza said with a grin.

Right winger Ales Hemsky scored less than two minutes later, and left winger Matt Kassian put his first goal of the season into an empty net with less than 12 seconds left.

Spezza was on the ice for the empty-netter and had a chance to take the open shot but passed to Kassian, who was sporting a black eye and several stitches from a first-period fight with Islanders rookie left winger Brett Gallant.

"That's what captains do," MacLean said. "He's had more than one hat trick, I think, in his career already. Matt getting the goal -- it was a great play by a teammate."

Senators goaltender Craig Anderson made 45 saves.

Goaltender Anders Nilsson had 28 stops for the Islanders (31-37-11), who lost their penultimate home finale at Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders, who have played in the building since joining the NHL in 1972, will play one more year on Long Island before moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season.

The loss also all but locked up a sixth last-place finish in the last seven years for the Islanders, who reached the playoffs last season but have been undermanned much of this season. Four of their top six scorers were not on the ice Tuesday: Injured right winger Kyle Okposo, center John Tavares and right winger Michael Grabner as well as left winger Thomas Vanek, who was traded in March.

"When we get our team back and we're ready and we play the way we can play, I have a lot of fight in our guys in that room that we can make a push next year for sure and get in the dance," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said.

NOTES: Nassau Coliseum is the second-oldest arena in the NHL, behind only the rival New York Rangers' Madison Square Garden, which has been renovated numerous times since it opened in 1968. ... The Islanders scratched injured D Calvin de Haan (leg), RW Michael Grabner (concussion), RW Kyle Okposo (lower body), D Brian Strait (broken hand) and D Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) as well as the healthy pair of LW Eric Boulton and D Radek Martinek. ... The Senators scratched the healthy C Mike Hoffman as well as the injured D Jared Cowen (lower body), C Colin Greening (lower body), RW Bobby Ryan (sports hernia). ... With the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs eliminated Tuesday, Canada will be represented in the Stanley Cup playoffs by just one team -- the Montreal Canadiens -- for the first time since 1973. ... The win Tuesday was the 100th for Paul MacLean as Ottawa's head coach.
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