OTTAWA -- The loss was a little easier to take knowing they already had clinched a playoff spot, but the Ottawa Senators were still looking for a better result as they jockey for position.
The Hurricanes (32-32-16), long since removed from the playoff picture, ensured the Senators could climb no higher than seventh in the Eastern Conference standings.
The playoff-bound Senators (41-29-10) still need a single point in either of their remaining two games to lay claim to the seventh spot and set up a first-round playoff meeting with the Boston Bruins.
"Most of the games when you're playing from behind the results are not going to be what you like," Senators' coach Paul MacLean said.
"They were obviously more competitive than we were and I think we got what we deserved."
Jason Spezza scored with 13 seconds left in the third period to break Ward's shutout bid after the Hurricanes scored both of their goals in the second period.
Sutter opened the scoring early in the second when his shot from the left side found its way into the net at 1:33 after Senators' goalie Craig Anderson -- who made 29 saves in the game -- got a piece of the puck but not quite enough.
Midway through the period it looked as though the Hurricanes were about to take a 2-0 advantage when Jeff Skinner needed only to tuck the puck into a deserted net after Anderson was beaten on the play. But defenceman Erik Karlsson hauled the puck off the goal-line and cleared it away.
During the same sequence, Chris Neil appeared to score for the Senators but after a lengthy review the goal was waved off.
MacLean received no explanation from the officials and was unsure as to why the goal was disallowed, especially since a very similar goal against Ottawa was allowed during a game in Winnipeg on March 26.
"I don't get those explanations. They don't seem to take the time to come and talk to us on the bench about them, but the Evander Kane goal in Winnipeg seemed to be eerily similar and it was allowed and this was wasn't. I'm not sure why they're different," MacLean said.
Ruutu eventually gave the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead when he redirected Jussi Jokinen's point shot from the slot and past Anderson while the Hurricanes were on the power play.
"They do a really good job of forechecking hard, the D really pinch and we couldn't really make plays quick enough to generate a lot of chances. It was still a close game and if the power play had been a little bit sharper it could have won the game for us," Senators' captain Daniel Alfredsson said after his team went 0 for 5 with the man advantage.
The Hurricanes were coming off a 5-0 loss at home to the New Jersey Devils and wanted to right the ship before it was too late to end the season on a positive note.
"It's important to finish the season strong even though we're out of the playoffs," said Ward. "Guys are still out there sacrificing and sticking up for one another. At times, it was chippy out there and the guys came up with some big blocks."
Ottawa hosts Boston on Thursday and then close out the regular season at New Jersey on Saturday. The Hurricanes are home to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday before wrapping up their season Saturday in Florida against the Panthers.
Notes: The Senators played 17 sets of back-to-back games this season with the most recent being last weekend when they swept games in Philadelphia and Long Island. They finished 7-8-2 in the first game of those sets and 9-5-3 in the second. ... Hurricanes' defenceman Jay Harrison played in his 200th NHL game Tuesday. ... Justin Faulk ranks third among Hurricanes' defenceman in scoring but was first among NHL rookie blue-liners with 22:55 in average ice time, eight goals and five power-play goals heading into action Tuesday. ... Bobby Butler, Zenon Konopka, Sergei Gonchar and Ben Bishop were scratches for the Senators on Tuesday. Jaroslav Spacek and Andreas Nool were scratches for the Hurricanes.