With just one point separating them in the standings, Tuesday’s game between the Panthers and visiting Senators was expected to be close.
If not for Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson and some questionable officiating, it might not have been.
Although the Senators stole a point by surviving until overtime, the Panthers kept their winning streak going with a 2-1 shootout victory at BB&T Center.
Florida goes into its Christmas break winners of five consecutive games and 11 of its past 14 and pulled into a virtual tie with Boston for second place in the Atlantic Division and are a point away from first place.
“We definitely played a good game, but it’s a scary game there at 1-0 and then it’s 1-1,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “We held our composure and the guys found a way to get the two points.”
Ottawa was one of the teams to beat Florida during this recent hot streak and, as was the case in New Jersey last week, the Panthers got some measure of revenge on Tuesday.
Anderson, the former Panthers goalie who continues to make his home in South Florida, has been terrific in the past against the Panthers and had to be again Tuesday.
The Panthers were all over Anderson and the Senators through the first two periods yet only held a 1-0 lead going into the third.
Anderson stopped 13 shots in the first period then faced 17 in the second. Anderson made 39 saves overall but gave up a pair in the shootout to automatics Brandon Pirri and Sasha Barkov for Florida to earn the extra point.
Corban Knight, who has been strong since being recalled from the minors last week, gave Florida a 1-0 lead midway through the second when he sliced through the Ottawa defense and beat Anderson with a slick wrister from the left circle.
The Panthers had more to deal with than just Anderson, however, as the officiating crew of Jean Hebert and Kyle Rehman missed a pair of high-sticks that would have given Florida two four-minute power plays.
The crew also blew a whistle early on a scrum in front of the net where Aaron Ekblad scored. Ekblad went up to the glass to celebrate a goal that never was, drawing the ire of Ottawa tough Chris Neil.
“It’s tough. Sometimes you get upset, but they missed them. They came up and said, ‘We didn’t see it, so we can’t call it,’ ” Gallant said. “They are good guys and do the best they can. They said they missed it, you move on.”
On the first missed call, Reilly Smith appeared to be snared by Patrick Wiercioch. The second was much more serious as Jaromir Jagr caught the blade from Alex Chiasson’s stick right in the mouth.
Jagr hit the ground, blood pouring from his mouth with team trainer Dave Zenobi offering assistance.
Jagr eventually got up and went to the bench, returning to the ice for his next shift minus a few front teeth and an even bigger smile than usual.
As he skated back, Jagr tapped Chiasson on the helmet then told Gallant his mouth was fine.
Jagr had a chance to win it late in overtime when he went coast-to-coast on a breakaway, the puck floating off his stick at the last moment for Anderson’s final save of the evening.
“I lost some teeth but I gained some speed as you saw on that breakaway,” said Jagr, who added that he lost four teeth. “I don’t want to hear I’m slow anymore. I had the breakaway. I don’t think I’ll have another one for 10 years.”
Despite being outplayed and badly outshot, Ottawa tied the score early in the third on its second power play of the night after Erik Karlsson’s long shot was deflected in by Mark Stone.
Ottawa took just two shots on goal in the third period.
“I thought we played a really good game, could have had three or four goals easily,” said Roberto Luongo, who made 15 saves. “They got a lucky bounce but we found a way. Guys are confident in themselves and the way we’re playing. We believe we can win every game.”
▪ Dave Bolland returned to the Panthers on Monday and his gear is back in the team locker room but he might not play right away.
Bolland sustained some sort of injury while on assignment to Florida's AHL team in Portland, Maine.
General manager Dale Tallon would only say that Bolland is being evaluated for a “lower-body” injury.
▪ With the Christmas holiday coming up, the Panthers will be off until a scheduled practice Saturday morning at 11 a.m. at the IceDen in Coral Springs.
Florida resumes its homestand Sunday against Columbus.