OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators wanted to give fans something positive to remember.
In a season that was filled with disappointment and frustration, the Senators sent fans home for the off-season with a 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers Thursday night in their final home game of the season.
"We did what we had to do and at the end of the day it was nice to get the win going into the third with a lead," said Senators captain Erik Karlsson.
"Last home game here so it’s always nice to get away with a win and I think we deserved it and everybody did as good a job as they needed to."
Buddy Robinson’s first NHL goal stood up as the winner. Mika Zibanejad and Cody Ceci also scored for the Senators, who finish the season with a 21-14-6 record on home ice. Ottawa (37-35-9) closes out the season Saturday against Boston.
Craig Anderson made 32 saves in his 60th start of the season.
Jaromir Jagr had the lone goal for the Panthers (46-26-9) as Al Montoya faced 23 shots. The loss snapped Florida’s three-game winning streak.
"It wasn’t our best game that’s for sure," said Jagr.
"We just have to make sure we regroup. We have to make sure we play a lot better than tonight. The body just remembers the last game so we have to make sure we play the best hockey before going into the playoffs. Two bad games before the playoffs I don’t think would be very smart."
Ceci scored his 10th of the season to give the Senators some breathing room late in the third, beating Montoya through traffic to make it 3-1.
With time winding down Anderson made a huge blocker save on Rocco Grimaldi that brought a huge cheer from the sellout crowd of 19,165.
"Winning is fun," said Anderson. "We showed up tonight, we played well and we were able to hold on to a lead, which is nice.
"We were just glad that we were able to seal the deal on this one and make sure we got the win and send the fans away with something at least to cheer about."
Trailing 2-0, the Panthers got on the board at the four-minute mark of the third when Aleksander Barkov made a pass from behind the net to Jagr, who squeezed the puck in shortside for his 27th of the season.
The Senators took a 2-0 lead midway through the second when Robinson redirected Ceci’s point shot. It was just Robinson’s second NHL game after spending majority of the season with the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Senators.
"It was unbelievable," said Robinson with a huge grin.
"It’s something you dream about as a kid growing up and you see it go in the back of the net, especially at home, the fans erupt, it’s just something you can’t really explain. Awesome."
Zibanejad opened the scoring late in the first period with a power-play goal. It was his 20th on the year and gives the Senators five 20-goal scorers for the second straight season.
Karlsson picked up his 65th assist on the goal and now has 81 points, setting new career highs in both categories. He’s also the first defenceman since the 1995-96 season to have more than 80 points.
One of the biggest highlights of the night for Ottawa fans may have been seeing Chris Phillips back on the ice.
The Senators veteran defenceman donned his uniform to take part in the post-game celebration where players gave fans their sticks. It was the first time this season that Phillips was on the ice with all his teammates and the significance of the moment wasn’t lost on the 38-year-old who hasn’t played since last February.
Phillips has been sidelined the entire season by a back injury and becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but it’s unlikely he will play again.
"It potentially could be (the last time in a Senators uniform)," said Phillips. "Lots of thinking and decisions to make this summer, but there was a chance so I wanted to try and make the most of it (Thursday night)."
Phillips hasn’t set a timeline on a decision regarding retirement, but said should his back not show signs of significant improvement the decision might be made for him.
Notes: RW Mark Stone missed his fourth straight game (upper body) and Mark Methot missed his third (undisclosed). Florida D Erik Gudbranson missed his second straight game (upper body).