|FLA||2||1||1||1||(0 - 0)||5|
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GAME: Florida Panthers (35-34-10) at Ottawa Senators (51-20-8).
TIME: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. EDT.
The Ottawa Senators look to clinch their second division title in the last three seasons and increase their lead in the Eastern Conference when they host the Florida Panthers.
Ottawa is six points ahead of Buffalo in the Northeast Division and can clinch its fourth division title since 1999 with a win or overtime loss. The Senators lead Carolina by one point for the top spot in the East with three games remaining for each club.
Ottawa snapped a season-high four-game losing streak with a 4-3 overtime victory over Boston on Tuesday night. Zdeno Chara scored twice, including 40 seconds into overtime, in his return after missing 11 games with a bruised hand.
"The most important thing is that we got the two points and we won the game," said Chara, who has four goals in his last four games.
Jason Spezza assisted on Chara's first goal to give him 10 assists in the last six games, and goaltender Michael Morrison made 19 saves in his first start since he was picked up on waivers from Edmonton on March 9.
Morrison replaced Ray Emery, who had his streak of 22 consecutive starts since the Olympic break come to an end. Emery went 13-6-3 with a 2.61 goals-against average and two shutouts over that span.
The Panthers, eliminated from playoff contention, lost 6-5 in overtime to Toronto on Tuesday despite three goals from Joe Nieuwendyk.
"When you play in a high-tempo game like that you want to win. Unfortunately, we shot ourselves in the foot," said Nieuwendyk, who also added an assist.
Nieuwendyk has eight career three-goal games and is 20th on the all-time goal-scoring list with 558, two shy of Guy Lafleur.
Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester each added goals on Tuesday. Jokinen has three goals in his last two games, while Bouwmeester has scored two of his five goals this season in the last three contests.
Goalie Roberto Luongo has just two wins and a 3.58 GAA in 14 appearances against the Senators.
Ottawa is 2-1 against Florida this season, and has won 14 of the last 18 meetings.
STANDINGS: Panthers - 80 points, 4th place, 29 PB, Southeast Division. Senators - 110 points, 1st place, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Jokinen, 37 goals, 48 assists and 85 points; Chris Gratton, 100 PIM. Senators - Dany Heatley, 48 goals and 98 points; Spezza, 69 assists; Chris Neil, 186 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Panthers - Power play: 15.1 percent (60 for 398), 24th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.8 percent (404 for 494), 17th. Senators - Power play: 21.0 percent (99 for 471), 4th. Penalty killing: 85.3 percent (394 for 462), 4th.
GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Luongo (33-30-9, 4 SO, 2.99 GAA); Jamie McLennan (2-4-1, 3.23). Senators - Emery (22-10-4, 3, 2.81); Morrison (11-4-2, 2.84).
SEASON SERIES: Senators, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: March 8; Panthers, 6-2. At Sunrise, Fla., Jozef Stumpel and Nathan Horton scored two goals apiece as the Panthers snapped an eight-game home losing streak to the Senators.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 11-23-6 on the road; Senators - 29-9-2 at home.