Ottawa Senators' Chris Neil (25) celebrates with teammate Jason Spezza (19) after scoring against Florida Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen (30) during first period NHL hockey action in Ottawa, Ontario, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Fred Chartrand)
OTTAWA - The Ottawa Senators had a backup in place if Bobby Butler didn't score in overtime on Thursday.
Defenceman Erik Karlsson was perfectly positioned to put away Kyle Turris' cross-ice pass, but Butler got to it first to give the Senators a 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers.
"I was ready for it if it would of come but it happened pretty fast," said Karlsson, who was alone at the side of Florida's net and prepared to tap in the puck had Butler missed the feed. "It doesn't really matter. It was nice to stand there up close and see it go in.
"The two points are very important for us going into the Christmas break."
Karlsson had a goal and an assist in regulation time for the Senators (17-14-4), as did Chris Neil. Daniel Alfredsson scored and added two assists, while Craig Anderson had a 32-save performance for Ottawa's third straight win.
Butler, like Karlsson, was happy to extend the Senators winning streak.
"It's good to put that in, but it's good to get the two points for the team," said Butler. "I just tried to do it and help out when I get the chance."
Tomas Kopecky scored with just over a minute left in the third period to force overtime for the Panthers (18-11-6), who have now lost two straight games. Michal Repik and Shawn Matthias also scored. Scott Clemmensen turned aside 21 shots in the loss.
Karlsson's two points give him 33 on the season, tops among all NHL defencemen. Karlsson said he worked hard all summer on his game and improving his condition, and it has paid off.
"I'm playing with some pretty good players out there and I get the puck in some good situations," said Karlsson. "I had traffic in front of the net as well and that's the key for me, especially shooting from the blue-line."
The scoring came in bunches on Thursday night.
Karlsson scored 38 seconds after Florida's Matthias had tied the game at 2-2. That goal came just a minute and 27 seconds after Alfredsson scored a power-play goal to give the Senators the lead.
The reason the teams were tied heading into the final period had as much to do with Erik Condra as it did with the goal scorers.
Late in the second period, Condra was at the side of the Senators' net but turned just in time to see the puck sliding toward the goal-line behind Anderson.
Condra swiped the puck away just as it was less than a puck's length away from giving the Panthers a 2-1 lead.
Earlier in the period, Repik tied the game for the Panthers as Ottawa's Butler sat in the penalty box in place of Nick Foligno who was in the dressing room serving a five-minute major and game misconduct for charging.
Foligno turned his back to Keaton Ellerby and left his feet to hit the defenceman as he was coming around the net. Ellerby returned to the game after about a six-minute absence.
"I was disappointed that was the call," Foligno said as he tried to explain himself. "I was coming around the net and he had the puck, then lost it and looked down. I have to finish that play. I wasn't trying to hit him I was just trying to poke check the puck. I noticed we were going to collide so I just braced myself he almost runs into me.
"I'm disappointed with the call and really that's all I can say about it."
Neil opened the scoring early in the first period on a Senators' power play as he tipped a point shot from Karlsson down and past Clemmensen.
The Panthers played most of the game without the services of Stephen Weiss who left the game early in the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return. The centre had only 3:03 of ice time before leaving.
"I thought we fought hard," said Campbell. "Getting down late wasn't what we wanted but we battled back and got a point. It's always frustrating to lose in overtime but we've got to move on because we've got a big game to play tomorrow."
Both teams play their final pre-Christmas games Friday as the Senators are in Carolina to face the Hurricanes while the Panthers play the Bruins in Boston.
Notes: Jesse Winchester missed his first game and Milan Michalek his fourth for the Senators because of concussions. Peter Regin was also out of the lineup with a bad shoulder he hurt in Ottawa's last game…Chris Neil's assist Tuesday made him the 16th player in Senators' history to record 100 assists…the Panthers were without four forwards for Thursday's game as Scottie Upshall missed his 20th consecutive game with a hip injury while Marcel Goc and Jack Skille missed their 18th and third games respectively with upper-body injuries. Sean Bergenheim missed his second game with a lower-body ailment…Matthias had his 50th career point with a second-period assist Thursday.