OTTAWA -- With the Ottawa Senators poised to return to the playoffs, Daniel Alfredsson likes how the club is rounding into form.
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"We can match up against anybody I think," Alfredsson said. "We know how close it is and how close a [playoff] series will be, but we feel that if we can continue here all the way to the playoffs, we can do some damage."
Brian Elliott made 20 saves, and Matt Cullen and Peter Regin also scored for the Senators. Rookie defenseman Erik Karlsson had three assists.
Stephen Weiss and Steven Reinprecht scored for the Panthers, who got a 22-save performance from Tomas Vokoun.
Alfredsson fired a shot from just inside the blue line early in the third period to give Ottawa a 3-1 lead. He is only four games away from reaching 1,000 in the NHL. He has scored at least 20 goals in 10 straight seasons.
The Senators, who missed the playoffs last season but are now fifth in the Eastern Conference with 87 points, got into penalty trouble later in the period and handed the Panthers two 5-on-3 power plays.
Reinprecht beat Elliott on the first opportunity at 13:14, but the Panthers failed to convert on the other. Elliott made a huge glove save on Nathan Horton to keep Florida at bay.
"We did a great job killing those off," Elliott said. "Even if we get those penalties we're confident that we can kill them off."
Florida coach Peter DeBoer wasn't pleased with his team's effort.
"We're not getting anything," he said. "Whether it's a goalie pitching a shutout or a defenseman getting on the board or a forward scoring two or three, we're not finding a difference maker on any given night."
After a sluggish first period, both teams came out with a much better effort in the second.
The Panthers opened the scoring when Weiss sneaked a shot behind Elliott seven minutes into the period.
Cullen tied the game at 15:02, burying Karlsson's rebound over Vokoun.
"I try to do my role every game," Karlsson said. "I think it's more of the team playing good and then the guys play good."
Karlsson has been getting increased responsibilities recently. Senators coach Cory Clouston has been pleased with the young defenseman's play.
"He's done a lot of good things in different areas," Clouston said. "He's playing very well, very poised."
Regin beat Vokoun through the legs at 17:40 to give Ottawa a 2-1 lead after two. Regin has three goals in four games.
Ottawa defenseman Anton Volchenkov left the game after a collision with teammate Andy Sutton and Weiss early in the second. Clouston said the injury doesn't appear to be serious.
The Senators were without D Filip Kuba (lower body, day-to-day), LW Milan Michalek (knee, indefinite). ... RW Shean Donovan and RW Ryan Shannon were healthy scratches. ... Ottawa C Chris Kelly played in his 400th NHL career game. ... The Panthers were without C Gregory Campbell (foot, day-to-day), LW David Booth (concussion, indefinite).