Two nights after clinching their second straight playoff berth, the Ottawa Senators aim for a second consecutive victory as they host the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
The Sens snapped a two-game slide and won for the fifth time in seven games on Thursday with a 2-1 overtime victory against the Washington Capitals. Sergei Gonchar's power-play goal 47 seconds into the extra frame secured his club's 14th trip to the playoffs in the past 16 seasons.
Jakob Silfverberg also scored and Erik Karlsson assisted on both goals in his amazing early return from a severe cut to his left Achilles, which he suffered on Feb. 13 after getting clipped by a skate. The reigning Norris Trophy winner was expected to miss 4-to-6 months of action, but returned 10 weeks after surgery and saw 27 minutes of ice time.
"I battled some issues out there and didn't feel quite as comfortable as I'm used to, but overall it was a solid game," admitted Karlsson. "I still have to work through some mistakes and clean those up."
Still, his return was a great addition to the Sens ahead of the playoffs.
"It was great to see him out there," said captain Daniel Alfredsson. "I think we were kind of cautious what to expect, but we know what he is capable of, just what he opens up offensively for us: creating chances, joining the rush, breaking out of our end. It was great to have him back."
Craig Anderson stopped 19 shots for the Senators, who are tied with the New York Rangers for the last two playoff spots in the East and one point behind the sixth-seeded New York Islanders.
Ottawa has the inside edge at the sixth seed as it has two games remaining to the Rangers' one. The Islanders ended their regular season with Friday's results shootout loss against Buffalo, while the Sens visit the Boston Bruins on Sunday to make up a game that was postponed on April 15 due to the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
The sixth seed will open the playoffs against the Southeast Division-champion Capitals, while the eighth-place team will open versus the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins. Either Boston or Montreal will play host to the seventh seed in Round 1.
Ottawa is also three points behind the fifth-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs, who end the regular season tonight versus the visiting Canadiens.
The Sens stand a good chance at another victory tonight as they have won eight of nine and 21 of their last 25 at home versus the Flyers.
Philadelphia closes out its disappointing season tonight and will miss the playoffs for the first time since six years. The Flyers can still end the season on a season high-tying four-game winning streak after besting the Islanders 2-1 on Thursday.
In what could have been his final home game with the Flyers, Danny Briere snapped a 19-game goal drought with a first-period power-play goal.
"It was a good feeling," noted Briere. "I've been here a long time, we've been together through some good times and some bad times, some hot stretches and some slumps, so yeah, I definitely felt a little extra clap there. Thanks to the fans here in Philly. Every year I've been treated awesome by the fans here and I couldn't ask for a better place to play."
Rookie defenseman Oliver Lauridsen potted the tie-breaking goal late in the third period, the second goal of his career and second in as many games. Ilya Bryzgalov made 21 saves for Philadelphia, which has won five of its last six games.