Senators complete Panther sweep

Erik Karlsson delivered a loud statement to his critics Thursday.

Goaltender Craig Anderson #41of the Ottawa Senators celebrates with teammate Chris Phillips #4 their 3-1 win against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on January 24, 2013 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

SUNRISE, Fla. — Erik Karlsson delivered a loud statement to his critics Thursday.

The Ottawa Senators’ star defenceman did what he does best, flashing a piece of offensive magic to break a 1-1 second period tie here against the Florida Panthers.

From there, the Senators hung on for a nail-biting 3-1 win — Jason Spezza scored into an empty net with 1:16 remaining — extending their perfect record to 3-0.

If they can defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning Friday, they’ll return home to the cold as the hottest team in the Eastern Conference to start the season.

Karlsson, stationed one stride outside the Panthers’ blueline, intercepted a poor clearing attempt by Florida defenceman Shawn Matthias. Karlsson then waited, and waited some more, as Marc Méthot raced from inside the blueline to prevent an offside.

At that point, Karlsson raced towards the Panthers net on a partial breakaway, ripping a wrist shot over the trapper of Panthers goaltender Jose Theodore.

It was only one goal — Karlsson’s second of the season — but it was an answer to the many critics who believe he faces an impossible task in trying to live up to his Norris Trophy-winning season in 2011-12.

In short, Karlsson’s goal was a thing of beauty, a play only a scarce few NHL players can make.

As impressive as it was, the Senators shouldn’t get too carried away with themselves.

Following a quick start to the game, they also had far too many moments of sloppiness, especially in the second period. Time and again, goaltender Craig Anderson bailed them out of trouble.

The Panthers outshot the Senators 13-9 in the second period and Florida players were buzzing in and around the net in the final few minutes of the middle period. The Panthers also fanned on other glorious chances. Scott Upshall will be having nightmares about missing a perfect setup from Alex Kovalev.

Anderson also put himself in trouble at times due to his own careless play outside the net. After a communication breakdown with Chris Phillips, Anderson was forced to make a diving stop off Kovalev to save a goal.

The Senators also failed to bury the Panthers when they had the chance.

Guillaume Latendresse could have put the game out of reach on a third period penalty shot, but his deke attempt was easily stopped by Theodore.

With seven minutes left in the game, Jakob Silfverberg rang a shot off the post behind Theodore.

Seconds after that, Anderson saved the day, robbing Peter Mueller with an outstanding trapper save.

At the outset, it was deja-vu all over again.

Just like in the Senators’ 4-0 win at Scotiabank Place Monday, Panthers goaltender Jose Theodore was outstanding in the early going. The Senators peppered him with shots from everywhere, but Theodore was at his acrobatic best to keep the game scoreless.

The clubs then exchanged power play goals — Tomas Fleischmann scored for Florida and Phillips for Ottawa — ending the first period deadlocked 1-1.

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