With a 4-3 shootout win over the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night the Ottawa Senators clinched a playoff berth.
Jason Spezza had the shootout winner and set-up the game-tying goal in the dying seconds of regulation.
With the Senators trailing 3-2 late in the third, Spezza won a draw in the Carolina end back to Erik Karlsson, who blew a shot past Hurricanes goalie Manny Legace to tie the game with 7.7 seconds remaining in regulation. It was Karlsson's second goal of the game.
"Everybody knew what we were going to do if we won the faceoff and it's a really good faceoff by Spezza," said Karlsson. "I just took the shot and it's a really good feeling to see it go in."
Karlsson has been instrumental to the Senators of late with three goals and seven assists in his last six games.
"He's been phenomenal for us," said Spezza. "His emergence has really helped our team out this second half and having young guys step up is what gives your team a lot of success and he's done that…he's been real valuable to our team."
Alex Kovalev had the other goal for Ottawa in the shootout, while Anton Volchenkov also scored in regulation for the Senators (43-30-5). Brian Elliott, making his sixth straight start, made 28 saves.
Peter Regin had two assists for the Senators, fifth in the Eastern Conference with 91 points.
Ottawa needed just a single point to clinch an Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Senators return to post-season action after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 1996.
"It's a huge point in dramatic fashion and it's nice to get back in the playoffs," said Spezza. "We're excited. After you miss a year I think you appreciate it even more."
Legace was solid for the Hurricanes, stopping 32 shots. Jamie McBain, Chad LaRose and Brandon Sutter scored for Carolina (33-35-9).
"We should have had two points," said Legace. "The guy wins the draw clean and shoots it, it hits my glove and goes up in the air and goes in the net. It's unfortunate."
Carolina coach Paul Maurice was equally disappointed in the final outcome considering how the team had played to that point.
"It's tough to lose it like that."
The Senators opened the scoring with 11.9 seconds remaining in the first period as Volchenkov, who returned to the lineup after missing the Tuesday's game in Washington due to injury, beat Legace from the slot with a shot over the right shoulder.
Carolina tied the game five minutes into the second as McBain beat Elliott with a shot from the blue-line.
The Hurricanes took a 2-1 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the period when LaRose beat Elliot as he moved across his crease.
Karlsson tied things early in the third with his third of the season, beating Legace glove side with a snapshot from the slot.
"Erik scored two great goals for us and he continues to play great," said Daniel Alfredsson, who saw an eight-game scoring streak come to an end. "It's a good comeback win."
Carolina retook the lead just over five minutes later when Sutter came out from behind the net and buried his 21st of the season.
The Senators head out for a three-game road trip before returning home for the final game of the regular season.