(SportsNetwork.com) - The Ottawa Senators hope to avoid what could be a critical third straight setback on Sunday evening as they host a Florida Panthers club also in search of two big points.
The Senators have lost back-to-back games since winning seven in a row, with Saturday's overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs dropping them a point behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins, who have played one more game than the Sens, grabbed the advantage by beating the New York Rangers on Saturday.
The Panthers, meanwhile, are coming off their own overtime setback, losing to the Atlantic Division-leading Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, and are four points off Boston's pace.
The Sens perhaps missed an opportunity versus the Leafs, failing to hold a pair of two-goal leads in losing 4-3. Curtis Lazar, Mike Stone and Kyle Turris scored for the Senators.
Craig Anderson made his return to the lineup for the first time since March 10 and posted 27 stops in defeat. He has been battling a bruised hand.
"It's a 60-minute game and you have to play it out. You give teams time and space and it comes back to bite you," Anderson said.
Anderson was backed up by Chris Driedger on Saturday. Andrew Hammond, who has gone 14-1-1 to begin his NHL career, was sidelined due to a lower-body injury sustained versus San Jose on Monday.
The Panthers saw the Canadiens clinch a playoff spot with their 3-2 home win on Saturday, and a loss today could put a big dent in Florida's hopes for a postseason spot. The Panthers do get a chance to make up some ground as they conclude a five-game road trip on Tuesday versus Boston.
First, Florida will try to rebound after giving up the overtime winner while shorthanded at the 2:59 mark. The goal came seven seconds after Vincent Trocheck's penalty for hi-sticking.
Aleksander Barkov scored both goals and Jonathan Huberdeau picked up two assists for the Panthers, who had won three of four coming in. Roberto Luongo turned aside 22 shots in the loss, remaining at 399 career victories.
"He's there to protect us and save us. He definitely gave us a chance," Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell said of Luongo.
Saturday's loss came one day after leading goal-scorer Nick Bjugstad underwent season-ending back surgery. Bjugstad currently tops Florida with 24 goals through 72 games.
The Senators have won two of three versus the Panthers this season, taking eight of the past nine played at home.