Florida’s lineup featured Marcel Goc and Mikael Samuelsson for the first time in several weeks. The Panthers are happy to get some fresh legs back into the lineup, as the battered Florida forward corps has been down by as many as seven skaters in recent days. Scottie Upshall, Sean Bergenheim, Jack Skille and Marco Sturm remain sidelined with various ailments.
Florida got on the board early when Matt Bradley hit a Ranger and stole the puck in the Florida zone, passing up ahead to a streaking Marcel Goc for an odd man rush with Mikael Samuelsson. Goc gave it to Sammy who instantly sent it back for a streaking one timer for the goal with four minutes gone in the first period. It was Goc’s third goal of the season.
The Rangers had more chances in the first ten minutes of the period, outshooting the Panthers eight shots to five, but Clemmensen was standing tall in net for the Cats.
Mike Rupp soon after had a point blank shot on an uncontrolled rebound in front of Florida goaltender Scott Clemmensen, but missed the puck then was foiled by a diving Shawn Bradley.
With just under three minutes remaining, a stray puck hit Michael Del Zotto in the face, stopping play so a visibly bleeding Del Zotto was escorted to the bench.
Less than a minute later, the Rangers scored the equalizer on a slapshot from the right faceoff circle by Anton Stralman, his first of the season with an assist by Ruslan Fedotenko.
With 15 seconds left in the period, the first penalty of the game was called on Mike Weaver. The Panthers killed off the short power play and will start the second down a man.
Hits: Rangers, 16-11
Blocked Shots: Tied, 5-5
Faceoffs: Rangers, 14-11
Shots on Goal: Rangers, 16-8
Score: Rangers 1, Panthers 1