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Senators top Hurricanes, build cushion atop East

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The Ottawa Senators already had plenty of
motivation against a Carolina team that had taken both meetings
this season.

Playing for teammate Chris Neil made them even more determined
against the Hurricanes.

Hours after the right winger learned his mother had died in a
car accident in Canada, the Senators got the go-ahead goal from
Jason Spezza in the third period to beat the Hurricanes 5-3 in a
matchup of two of the Eastern Conference's top teams Tuesday night.

Mike Fisher had a goal and two assists for the Senators (16-3),
who came in with the conference's best record. Dany Heatley
assisted on Spezza's goal, pushing his team-record point streak to
19 games.

Neil -- the team's fifth-leading scorer with 14 points -- was
informed of his mother's accident while at the team hotel following
the morning skate. He left the team to fly home to be with family,
with agent Todd Reynolds telling the Ottawa Sun that Neil was
"devastated."

That left the team to try to focus on hockey not long after his
departure.

"It was the quietest bus I'd been in in a long time," Ottawa
coach Bryan Murray said. "I don't think anyone knew what to do or
say."

The Senators responded with a road win against a team that stood
one point back in the standings and had won eight of 10 at the RBC
Center.

"Before the game, we just said we wanted to play for Chris,"
said Fisher, Neil's best friend on the team. "He gives his heart
and soul to this team. We're all feeling for him right now. We all
want to play as hard as we can for him and his family.

"It was just a devastating afternoon for all of us."

Ottawa has had plenty of trouble with Carolina, starting with a
3-2 road loss last month that ended the Senators' six-game winning
streak to open the season. The Senators have won eight of nine with
the only loss coming to the Hurricanes at home last week.

But the Senators came out ahead this time, sealing the win when
Peter Schaefer scored an empty-net goal in the final seconds.

"You don't want to lose three in a row to anyone," Spezza
said. "But we've got a good thing going here. We're winning hockey
games and we just want to keep it going. The more wins you get, the
better."

Eric Staal, Craig Adams and Cory Stillman scored for the
Hurricanes, who rallied from a 2-0, first-period deficit only to
lose their second straight home game.

After Stillman tied the game early in the third, the Senators
pushed back ahead with Spezza's seventh goal. Heatley stripped
Justin Williams near the blue line and pushed the puck toward the
crease on the right side before sending it toward Daniel
Alfredsson.

The puck found Spezza on the left side. He whiffed on his first
shot before knocking it past Martin Gerber at 4:15 of the third.

"We came back," Carolina coach Peter Laviolette said. "It
seemed like we gained momentum in the game and we turned the puck
over and it cost us."

Ottawa got off to another fast start against Carolina, with
Fisher and Schubert scoring in the first 10 minutes. After a
Carolina turnover on the power play, Fisher beat Gerber for a
short-handed goal at 3:18.

Schubert then corralled a puck that caromed off the boards
behind the net and slipped it by Gerber -- who appeared to deflect
it in -- at 8:55.

Staal gave the Hurricanes a boost with a quick response,
flipping a backhand shot by Dominik Hasek while tangling with Chris
Phillips near the crease less than a minute later. The Hurricanes
tied it 2-2 when Cole brought the puck around from behind the net
and sent it toward the crease, where Adams slipped it under Hasek
at 13:32.

The teams then traded goals, first with Wade Redden scoring on a
shot from just inside the blue line on a second-period power play.
Carolina answered when Stillman scored on a rebound off a shot from
Matt Cullen early in the third.

Game notes
Heatley has 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) and is the
only NHL player to have a point in each of his team's games this
season. ... Carolina D Bret Hedican played in his 200th game with
the Hurricanes franchise. ... Ottawa has scored first in 14 of 19
games. ... The Senators' only loss to a team other than Carolina
was a 5-3 home defeat to Philadelphia on Oct. 30.