Senators 5, Rangers 1


NEW YORK (AP) – Dany Heatley scored his 50th goal in the third period to help Ottawa to a 5-1 victory over New York on Tuesday night that gave the Senators the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The loss knocked the Rangers out of first place in the Atlantic Division on the final day of the regular season. They wound up sixth in the East and will play New Jersey in the first round of the playoffs.

Heatley, in his first season with the Senators, reached the 50-goal mark for the first time and extended his Ottawa single-season record. Andrej Meszaros and Mike Fisher also scored third-period goals to break open a tight game.

Ottawa leapfrogged Carolina, which lost 4-0 at home to Buffalo, to grab first place in the East. The Senators will play defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay in the opening round.

The Rangers, who led the Atlantic for most of this season, were passed by Philadelphia and New Jersey. The Flyers beat the New York Islanders 4-1 and New Jersey won 4-3 at Montreal to take the division title.

The Rangers dropped their season-high fifth straight in regulation and will have to start their first postseason appearance since 1997 on the road. New York was trying to win its first division title since its Stanley Cup-winning season of 1993-94.

Ottawa got goals from Patrick Eaves and captain Daniel Alfredsson in the second period to take a 2-1 lead. Meszaros netted his 10th goal just 1:12 into the third with the teams skating 4-on-4. Fisher gave the Senators a three-goal advantage with a short-handed goal scored on the Rangers’ first power play.

Heatley finished it off with a power-play goal with 6:12 remaining.

Henrik Lundqvist, playing for the first time in eight games because of a hip injury, kept the Rangers in it until the third period. His best stop came in the second period when he was knocked over by his Swedish countryman Alfredsson on a breakaway, but kept the puck out of the net.

But his 27 saves weren’t nearly enough to outduel fellow rookie Ray Emery, who was stellar in stopping 27 shots and winning his 23rd game while filling in for the injured Dominik Hasek.

Martin Straka scored New York’s only goal, cutting the Rangers’ deficit to 2-1 just 16 seconds after Alfredsson scored.

The Rangers were sloppy in the second period and it cost them. After getting away with a number of giveaways, Fedor Tyutin’s defensive zone turnover led to Ottawa’s first goal.

New York won a faceoff near its net, and Tyutin was blocked at the right point as he tried to clear. He lost the puck to Eaves, who passed to Alfredsson in the slot. Just as quickly, the puck was returned to Eaves for a one-timer. Eaves’ 20th goal of the season came just 10 seconds after Lundqvist did the splits to stop Heatley’s long slap shot.

Another Rangers turnover forced Blair Betts to take a tripping penalty. Lundqvist made a fine pad stop on Wade Redden’s drive from the left point, but he couldn’t keep the rebound away from Alfredsson, who scored his 43rd goal.

Jaromir Jagr seemed eager to carry the Rangers, as he’d done all season. He set up his teammates, charged the net from the front and the back, and tried on several occasions to jam the puck past Emery. But he finished with just one assist, leaving him second in the NHL’s points and goals race.

After leading both categories for much of the campaign, Jagr – who had club records of 55 goals and 123 points – lost to San Jose’s pair of Jonathan Cheechoo (56 goals) and Joe Thornton (125 points).

Notes: Jagr had four of New York’s 13 first-period shots. … Ottawa scored first for the 46th time in 82 games and went (40-3-3 entering) in those contests. The Senators were 12-18-6 in games they trailed 1-0. … New York defenseman Darius Kasparaitis played after missing 12 of the previous 13 with a groin injury.

AP-ES-04-18-06 2205EDT