Marian Hossa and the Ottawa Senators played for the love of hockey -- not that they had much choice.

Hossa had a career-high and team-record four goals -- including three straight in the first period -- to lead the financially troubled Senators to an 8-1 victory last night over the Atlanta Thrashers in Ottawa.

Ottawa, which leads the Eastern Conference with 53 points, played its first game since failing to meet its player payroll after a complex refinancing deal fell through two days earlier.

"You can't really control what's going around, we just can control our job and that's what we did tonight," Hossa said. "It kind of reminded me of old times, when we didn't get paid in junior [league], so it was fun."

Todd White -- selected earlier in the day as the NHL's player of the month for December -- Jody Hull, Shaun Van Allen and Radek Bonk also scored for the Senators. They have lost just three of their last 26 games (19-3-4-0).

"We haven't even really talked about it, as a group of guys," Hull said. "That stuff's out of our control so all we can do is keep going out and playing the way we've been playing and let that stuff take care of itself."

Hossa scored on Ottawa's third, fifth and seventh shots as the Senators took a 4-0 lead and chased Atlanta goalie Byron Dafoe, who had missed the previous four games with a groin injury, 12 minutes 3 seconds into the game.

"[Dafoe] was healthy. He was one-hundred-percent healthy, he just obviously wasn't game-sharp," Thrashers Coach Don Waddell said.

Hossa got his third hat trick of the season, then added his fourth goal of the game and 25th overall against Milan Hnilicka at 6:02 of the second period.

"The bounces went my way -- every shot went in for me," Hossa said.

* PANTHERS 4, AVALANCHE 1: Viktor Kozlov scored two goals, Jani Hurme stopped 27 shots and Florida won on the road again, over Colorado.

Although it was only their second win in the last seven games, the Panthers earned a point for a 14th straight road game. They are 6-0-4-4 in that span.

"I think at home we try to make too many fancy plays, but on the road we play a simple game," said Olli Jokinen, who had one of Florida's three first-period goals. "We have to turn the puck over and play ugly hockey. It's not fun to watch, but the important thing is that it works."

* FLAMES 4, LIGHTNING 1: Jarome Iginla, last season's league leader in goals, notched his first two-goal game of the season, and Calgary rode three power-play goals in the first period to a victory over visiting Tampa Bay.

* STARS 3, SHARKS 1: Mike Modano had a goal and an assist, and Marty Turco made 23 saves as Dallas emphasized its return to dominance in the Pacific Division with a win at defending division champion San Jose.

* CANUCKS 3, CANADIENS 2: Markus Naslund scored twice to continue a torrid offensive streak, and host Vancouver beat Montreal. Naslund, with six goals and five assists in his last six games, leads the league with 27 goals.

* WILD 2, OILERS 1: Jim Dowd got a lucky bounce and credit for the game-winning goal with 44 seconds remaining in overtime, and visiting Minnesota beat Edmonton, which has won just one of its last nine.

* BLACKHAWKS 4, BLUES 1: Jocelyn Thibault just missed a second straight shutout, Kyle Calder had a goal and an assist and Chicago beat visiting St. Louis to run its unbeaten streak to seven games.

* FLYERS 4, KINGS 1: In Los Angeles, Keith Primeau and Andre Savage scored less than three minutes apart in the first period to spark Philadelphia.

Marian Hossa scores one of his three first-period goals on Atlanta's Byron Dafoe. Hossa finished with four goals for the Senators, who won, 8-1, in their first game since the franchise failed to meet its player payroll.