New York went two for three on the power play and Erik Gudbranson scored his first NHL goal for Florida in the first period.
The first period was marked by five power plays, but the Rangers capitalized on their chances, while the Panthers went 0-for-2.
Brad Richards opened the scoring at the 11:40 mark with his 11th goal of the season with an assist from Ryan Callahan on the Rangers second power play.
The Panthers enjoyed a man advantage, but came away empty and were called for a tripping penalty on Tomas Fleischmann. The Rangers answered with Artem Anisimov’s sixth goal of the season with assists from Erik Christensen and Anton Strahlman. Rangers led 2-0.
Just 40 seconds later the Cats would cut the lead in half when Erik Gudbranson scored his first NHL goal with assists from Kris Versteeg and Stephen Weiss with a slapshot from the point.
The Rangers really tore the lid off with four goals in the second period against a haggard looking bunch from Florida for a 6-1 lead after two periods.
Derek Stepan scored his sixth goal of the season about six minutes into the period unassisted on a coast-to-coast skate just as the Panthers third power play of the night had ended without incident.
Steve Eminger added his second of the campaign six minutes later with assists from John Mitchell and Brian Boyle to put the Rangers on top, 4-1.
With three minutes left in the period, Marion Gaborik scored his 15th goal of the season to put the game out of reach, 5-1. Assists were awarded to Anton Anisimov and Derek Stepan.
To add insult to injury, the Rangers tacked another goal on just 55 seconds later with Derek Stepan’s second goal of the night, and seventh of the season with assists by Michael Del Zotto and Marian Gaborik.
The Panthers had two more power play opportunities in the third period, but came away empty handed, going 0-for-7 on the night with the man advantage.
The Cats and the Rangers traded chances, and the Panthers looked like they wanted to get back in the game, but the Rangers were taking no prisoners, and held the Panthers to seven shots against 11 by New York.
Derek Stepan almost got his third goal with about five minutes remaining for the hat trick, but narrowly missed the net, wide left.
Hits: Rangers, 10-7
Blocked Shots: Rangers, 8-2
Faceoffs: Panthers, 8-4
Shots: Rangers, 11-7
Score: Rangers 6, Panthers 1
Matt Bradley skated on the fourth line tonight for his first game action in over a month. Mike Santorelli was a healthy scratch.
Florida ends their circus eight game road trip (one home game included) at 4-3-1. All things considered, it was a good trip.
Kris Versteeg tallied his 100th career assist.
The first line of Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg, and Stephen Weiss are all still averaging a point per night or better. If they stay on this pace, each will have tallied a career high by seasons end.
Jose Theodore took his worst loss of the season, allowing six goals on 22 shots, a .727 save percentage. Scott Clemmensen relieved him in the third, making all 11 saves.
Florida heads home now for a four game homestand. They will face the New Jersey Devils, the Calgary Flames, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Phoenix Coyotes. All four teams are below the Panthers in the standings, and only the Coyotes are currently in playoff position. Florida should be able to get at least three wins on the homestand.
After tonight’s setback, the Panthers are still six points ahead of second place Washington, but the Capitals have two games in hand, and are always a danger to reel off a six-game winning streak.