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‘Canes jump back into playoff picture, at least for now

Carolina passes Boston for the eighth at final playoff spot

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OTTAWA — Shane Willis scored 1:18 into overtime as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Ottawa Senators 3-2 Sunday and moved back in front in the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Willis, second in NHL rookie scoring entering the game, beat goalie Patrick Lalime with a wrist shot from the slot. The Hurricanes, with 83 points, jumped one point ahead of Boston into eighth place. Each team has four games remaining.

The Hartford/Carolina franchise has qualified for postseason play only once in the past seven seasons (1998-99). Jeff O'Neill scored twice for the Hurricanes in front of Ottawa's 17th sellout of the season.

The Senators, who had goals from Shawn McEachern and Alexei Yashin, took a two-point lead over New Jersey atop the Eastern Conference.

Ottawa had lost only one of its previous nine games (7-1-1) and were unbeaten in six. The Hurricanes had lost three of four.

O'Neill, Carolina's leading goal-scorer, gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead 2:46 in. He beat Lalime with a shot from just inside the blue line.

The Hurricanes took the first 11 shots of the game, and outshot the Senators 16-9 after the first period.

McEachern beat Carolina goalie Arturs Irbe with the Senators' first shot of the game on a power play at 11:01 of the first. It was the Senators 16th power-play goal in 11 games.

The Hurricanes, who own the second-ranked penalty-killing unit, had not allowed a power-play goal in seven games.

Irbe appeared in his 73rd game of the season, making his 64th start in 66 games.

O'Neill scored his 37th goal at 16:59, firing a quick shot from the top of the right circle.

Yashin, who entered 10th in the league in scoring, took a pass from Curtis Leschyshyn and beat Irbe to make it 2-2 only 3:25 into the second. It was Yashin's 38th goal of the season.

Senators defenseman Chris Phillips left the game later in the period with a bruised left shoulder.

Ottawa defenseman Karel Rachunek was helped off the ice with 5:08 remaining in the third period after he was hit on the left knee by a shot from O'Neill.

RANGERS 4, THRASHERS 2: At Atlanta, Mike York's short-handed goal helped the Rangers extend their winning streak to a season-high four games as New York beat the Atlanta Thrashers 4-2 Sunday.

Brian Leetch, Valeri Kamensky and Radek Dvorak also scored for the Rangers, who had not won as many as four in a row since a seven-game streak in January 2000.

In a matchup of the NHL's worst penalty-killing units, the Rangers took advantage of their potent road power play that ranks fifth in the league.

Leetch, the NHL's top-scoring defenseman, gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead 14:39 in with his 21st goal. Skating toward the left side of the Atlanta blue line on a power play, Leetch took a reverse pass from Mark Messier and fired a slap shot past Damian Rhodes.

Only 1:26 later, Herbert Vasiljevs swept a cross-ice pass across the crease to Andrew Brunette, who punched the puck past New York goalie Kirk McLean to tie it 1-1.

Kamensky made it 2-1 with another power-play goal 5:01 into the second period. Kamensky's 14th goal came on a rebound of Peter Smrek's missed shot.

Smrek was credited with another assist 8:09 later after passing to York on a short-handed breakaway. York scored his 14th goal with a slap shot from the center of the left circle.

Gord Murphy brought Atlanta within 3-2, converting a rebound of Hnat Domenichelli's shot with 1:04 left in the second period.

Dvorak scored an empty-net goal with 56 seconds remaining to make it 4-2. The speedy forward has 29 goals this season and five in the last three games.

Atlanta lost its fifth straight home game and is winless in its last 10 at Philips Arena. Rhodes, returning after missing 16 games with a groin strain, dropped to 7-18-7. He made 25 saves.

McLean improved to 8-10-1 after stopping 32 shots.

BLACKHAWKS 3, OILERS 3: At Chicago, Janne Niinimaa and Ryan Smyth scored 1:13 apart midway through the third period as the Edmonton Oilers rallied to tie the Chicago Blackhawks 3-3 Sunday.

Doug Weight had a goal and an assist for the Oilers, who moved closer to nailing down a spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Only four points separate fifth-place Edmonton from ninth-place Los Angeles.

Smyth, who also had an assist Sunday, has seven goals and nine assists in his last 10 games.

Chicago's Eric Daze scored his 31st and 32nd goals of the season to set a career high, but the Blackhawks' winless streak still reached seven games.

Jaroslav Spacek had a goal and an assist for Chicago, which scored more than two goals for the first time in seven games.

The Blackhawks earned their first point in three games with assistant coach Denis Savard running the team. Savard and fellow assistant Al MacAdam took over last week for coach Alpo Suhonen, who stepped aside on medical leave.

Edmonton goalie Tommy Salo played in his 70th game, matching a career high set last season.

Daze opened the scoring at 9:02 of the first period when he fought off a check, cut to the slot and beat Salo on the glove side.

Spacek's power-play goal, scored on a rebound with 4:23 left in the first, made it 2-0.

Weight cut it to 2-1 with 6:12 left in the second when he beat Jocelyn Thibault with a high shot from a sharp angle. Thibault appeared to lose sight of the puck when Weight shot from near the goal line.

Daze's short-handed goal 1:30 later made it 3-1. He connected from 10 feet to complete a 2-on-1 break with Steve Sullivan.

Niinimaa cut it to 3-2 with a power-play goal at 7:39 of the third. He beat Thibault with a low shot from between the circles after taking a centering pass from Ryan Smyth.

Smyth tied it at 8:52 when he drove to the net and knocked in Jason Smith's cross-ice feed from right wing to the edge of the crease.

SABRES 4, LIGHTNING 2: At Tampa, Fla., Alexei Zhitnik had two goals, and Dave Andreychuk and Miroslav Satan scored 47 seconds apart in the third period as the Buffalo Sabres beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 Sunday night.

The Sabres are one point behind fourth-place Philadelphia in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Andreychuk moved past Brett Hull into second place on the NHL career list with his 236th career power-play goal, scored with 13:03 left. He lifted a rebound past Kevin Weekes after the Tampa Bay goalie stopped Donald Audette's slap shot from the left circle.

Satan made it 3-1 from in-close less than a minute later.

Tampa Bay got within 3-2 when Pavel Kubina scored with just over six-minutes remaining.