No movement in Eastern basement as Senators slap Panthers 5-2



Mike Fisher had two goals, Chris Neil three points (1g), and Pascal Leclaire stopped 32 shots as Ottawa rolled in Sunrise over a heavily Rochester-influenced Panthers lineup. Man of the Evening Daniel Alfredsson - playing his 1,000th career game - picked up an assist.

Bright spots for Florida included an impressive single effort goal by Shawn Matthias which made him appear to have five more pro seasons under his belt, and a nifty wrister by Kamil Kreps which resulted in the game's final tally. Tomas Vokoun made 23 saves on a night where very little went right beyond the above goals, Nick Tarnasky's continuingly impressive effort, and the Islanders beating the Canadiens in Nassau.

Oh, and Evgeny Dadonov is ready. At least among this bunch, he did not look out of place. No points and 1 sog (-1), the 21 year-old, along with - ultimately - linemates Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss, still appeared poised and prepped, as testament to the efforts of Rochester coach Benoit Groulx.

Defenseman Keith Ballard had his own unique brand of action, which no simple description can fully grasp. No question, dude's had a funky season.

But let's dive into the meat of the issue: how do the standings stack up?

The aforementioned 4-3 Islanders victory gives them 78 points with three games remaining. It's knotted up tight from there south.

Visiting Carolina bombarded Tampa Bay 8-5 (wasn't nearly that close), allowing the Hurricanes to settle into a tie with the Isles at 78 as well. The Canes have two left on the schedule.

The Lightning remain alongside the Panthers with 74 points (three games left), heading up only Toronto, who lost a barnburner of a third period at home to the Flyers, 2-0. The Leafs (72 points) have two games upcoming to close out the year.

This home-and-home deal against Das Bolts next weekend is gaining in significance by the minute.

Next up: New Jersey in Sunrise on Thursday.

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