OTTAWA -- Playing their first home game since March 30, the Ottawa Senators kept alive their slim chances of starting the playoffs at Scotiabank Place.
They also kept the place buzzing with an entertaining 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on a Tuesday night that saw the Senators get in a season-high five fights.
Mika Zibanejad, Milan Michalek and Chris Neil scored for Ottawa, which has 50 points and a hold on sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
It was the second goal in two games back from knee surgery for Michalek, who led all players with eight shots on goal.
"So far it's going good and hopefully it's going to keep going like that," said Michalek, who had a team-high 35 goals last season but had just two in 15 games before deciding to get his damaged knee cleaned out by a surgeon. "It feels sore after the games, but it doesn't swell up right now, so hopefully it stays like this.
"I try not to think about it during the games. I just try to play my game. I could be cautious, but it would probably just be worse for me."
Setting the tone early was Senators defenseman Jared Cowen, who played his first game since hip surgery in November that was supposed to shut him down for the season. Just past the 13-minute mark of the first period, Cowen caught Jeff Skinner with a thunderous check at center ice, then fought Chad LaRose, who rushed to his fallen teammate's defense. Cowen also had to answer to Hurricanes tough-guy Kevin Westgarth in the second period.
"Everybody is in this together. We know that," said Westgarth, whose team is battling to stay out of the NHL's cellar. "It's kind of the whole, 'if you mess with one of us, you've got all of us' mentality. That's where we're at, and it's an incredibly important thing for a hockey club. It's great to see. We'd like to have beaten them down on the scoreboard, too, but unfortunately we couldn't quite get it done."
Senators goalie Craig Anderson made 32 saves in his first appearance at Scotiabank Place since suffering a sprained ankle against the New York Rangers on Feb. 21 that kept him out of 19 games. He biggest stop was off Joe Corvo in the second period as Anderson reached up to knock down a shot headed for the open part of the net. The highlight-reel save prompted many in the crowd of 19,181 to chant "Andy".
Justin Peters made 31 saves for the Hurricanes.
Zibanejad, who turns 20 on Thursday, scored the lone goal of the first period. It was his seventh goal of the season.
Michalek made it 2-0 six minutes into the second period, but Faulk put Carolina back in the game four minutes later.
Neil broke a 31-game scoring slump with his fourth of the season to restore the two-goal lead, but Eric Staal connected with a power-play goal 3:30 from the end to give the Hurricanes hope.
Their comeback chances were hindered, however, when Alexander Semin was called for hooking with 2:41 to go.
"Obviously, you could see there's a lot of fight left in us, no pun intended," Faulk said. "There was a lot of effort there, and guys are sticking up for each other.
"It's obviously emotional, it's frustrating. We played hard and it didn't come our way."
To start the playoffs at home, where they are 14-3-3 this season, the Senators must pass Toronto (53 points) and catch Boston (56) or Montreal (57). The Senators and Canadiens have played 42 games, one more than the Bruins and one fewer than the Maple Leafs.
The Senators went 2-4 in a six-game stretch away from Scotiabank Place while the Women's World Hockey Championships were in Ottawa. Their road record on the season is 8-11-3.
Senators coach Paul MacLean wasn't thrilled with his team's game, despite the fact it was Ottawa's third win in a row.
"We won, which is outstanding, but I didn't think we played particularly well," MacLean said. "Especially in the second half of the game. But we did enough to win the game, and defensively we limited their second and third opportunities.
"We really could have used something from our power play tonight, to put the game away. But at the end of the night, we got three and they got two. We win."
NOTES: Skinner, who has had a history of concussion problems, didn't return to the game after being hit by Cowen. Carolina coach Kirk Muller said he had an "upper body" injury. Asked his assessment of the play, Muller said: "It's an open ice hit. Skins said he saw him but he wasn't able to get out of the way. You've got a big guy coming down on a shorter guy, you catch him high ... it's a tough one to call." ... The Senators-Bruins game that was postponed Monday because of the bombs at the Boston Marathon will be made up April 28, the day after the regular season ends. The Senators have been informed by the NHL that should they make the playoffs, they won't have to start until the second night, May 1 .... The game featured the top shooting teams in the NHL. Entering the night, Carolina sat atop the category with an average of 32.8 shots per game, and Ottawa was second at 32.4 shots per game ... The Hurricanes appeared to go ahead at the 15:37 mark of the first period, but the puck was ruled to be kicked in by Tuomo Ruutu ... On his 27th birthday, Senators center Peter Regin sat in the press box as a healthy scratch for the eighth time this season and third game in a row. Other Ottawa scratches were Jim O'Brien, Mike Lundin, Matt Kassian and Andre Benoit ... Tim Wallace was the Hurricanes' healthy scratch.