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Senators spoil Horachek's debut as Panthers bench boss

The SportsXchange

OTTAWA -- Florida Panthers coach Peter Horachek waited a long time to be the bench boss of an NHL team. As it turns out, his opportunity came about two minutes too soon.

The Ottawa Senators scored twice in the first 2:04 and held on to defeat the Panthers 3-2 Saturday afternoon at Canadian Tire Centre to spoil the debut of Horachek, who took over as Panthers coach from the fired Kevin Dineen on Friday.

It was the eighth straight loss for the Panthers (3-10-4).

"You put yourself behind the 8-ball in the first couple of minutes of the game, you're down 2-0 on unforced errors, so we did it to ourselves," said Horachek, who was an assistant/associate coach with the Nashville Predators for nine years. "Maybe the guys were a little bit nervous or something, I don't know. But that was kind of a tough situation to fight back from.

"I think there were moments of effort that were good (but) we certainly can't put ourselves in that situation."

The win was the third in a row for Senators (7-6-4) as well as second string goaltender Robin Lehner, who made 26 saves.

"I think we should be starting to feel pretty good about ourselves," said Ottawa coach Paul MacLean. "The way that we played today was a pretty solid effort. Robin gave us another good effort and we kept the shots (on goal) to under 30.

"I thought our penalty killing, especially the 5-on-3 in the third period, was outstanding and a big reason why we won."

The Panthers were unable to capitalize on a two-man advantage that lasted 1:17 early in the final period, and were 0-for-5 on the power play for the game. But they did cut their deficit to one goal when center Marcel Goc beat Lehner with a slap shot from the top of the left wing faceoff circle with just under 10 minutes to play.

That, however, was as close as the visitors would get.

Senators center Kyle Turris scored his fourth goal of the season at the 1:45 mark on a sharp angle shot and just 19 seconds later Senators winger Mika Zibanejad banked a shot from behind the goal line off Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson for his fourth of the season to make it 2-0.

Florida center Nick Bjugstad got one back two minutes after that, beating Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson to a puck in the corner then cutting out front to stuff a shot past Lehner. The goal was Bjugstad's second of the season.

The winner came from Senators winger Clarke MacArthur during a 5-on-3 Ottawa power play in the second period. It was the third of the season for MacArthur and all of them have come in the last five games.

The Senators had 32 shots on Panthers goalie Tim Thomas, whose personal winning streak at Canadian Tire was stopped at nine games.

"I had good success a lot of times up here, but obviously we didn't come out with the win (today)," said Thomas, who returned from a groin injury to play his first game since Oct. 22. "I felt pretty good, but the beginning of the game started out a little scrambly and I felt a little out of sorts and kind of wasn't awake for that first goal. I wasn't expecting a shot to come from that angle and I had to get back into game type of thinking rather than practice.

"I felt like I got better as the game went on."

Karlsson, the 2012 Norris Trophy winner, spent time in MacLean's doghouse after his lackadaisical effort on the Bjugstad goal. He wound up with just four shifts and 4:16 of ice time in the first.

"I thought he was playing for both teams, and possibly a little more for their team than our team," said MacLean. "So I felt we can't have that. I don't know if it's (because) it's an afternoon game, but we had to make sure we got him settled down. I thought he came back and played fine."

Karlsson wound up with 21:04 of ice time and an assist on MacArthur's winning goal.

"It's not a career without getting benched," he offered afterward. "That's all I can say."

NOTES: Panthers G Tim Thomas returned from a groin injury that kept him on the shelf for six games to play in one of his favorite NHL rinks. Thomas was riding a nine-game winning streak at Canadian Tire Centre. ... Senators G Craig Anderson returned to the lineup after missing two games with a stiff neck, but coach Paul MacLean left him on the bench as a backup to G Robin Lehner, who stopped 65 of 67 shots and won both games in Anderson's absence. In announcing his decision, MacLean made sure to point out that Anderson, a former Panther, is still No. 1 on Ottawa's depth chart. ... Panthers C Jesse Winchester served the first of a three-game suspension for elbowing Bruins C Chris Kelly on Thursday. Winchester, a former Senator, is from Long Sault, Ontario, which is just outside of Ottawa. About 30 friends and family were in attendance to watch him play. ... Senators RW Chris Neil, the team's all-time penalty minutes leader, was playing with a visor for the first time in his NHL career. Neil needed eight stitches around his eye to close a cut suffered Thursday, when Senators D Erik Karlsson hit him with a pass. ... Senators D Patrick Wiercioch was back in the lineup after missing the previous two games as a healthy scratch. All told, the former second-round pick has been scratched from four games this season. ... Senators D Joe Corvo was scratched for a fifth consecutive game and ninth time this season. ... The Senators' next game is Tuesday, when they play host to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Panthers are in action again Sunday, when they play the last of a three-game road trip at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.
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