It didn’t take the Rangers very long to open up the scoring in Sunrise tonight. After the Panthers won the opening faceoff, Carl Hagelin beat Scott Clemmensen for his seventh goal of the season with an assist by Ryan Callahan to put the Rangers up, 1-0.
The Panthers nearly tied it at the four minute mark when Kris Versteeg took it into the Rangers zone unchallenged and fed Jason Garrison for a one timer, which Henrik Lundqvist blocked. Stephen Weiss gathered the rebound but was stoned by Lundqvist.
New York added another marker at the five minute mark when Brad Richards scored his 13th goal of the season with an assist by Jeff Woywitka to make it 2-0.
The Panthers went on the nights first power play when Michael Del Zotto held Tomas Fleischmann behind the Rangers net. Florida kept the puck in the Rangers zone for almost the entire two minutes, and had several quality chances on the net, but Lundqvist was standing tall for the Rangers.
Michael Del Zotto scored his fourth goal of the season with four minutes remaining in the period on a shot from the left faceoff circle. Jose Theodore replaced Clemmensen in net. Carl Hagelin and Brad Richards were awarded assists on the play.
Ryan Callahan ran into Jose Theodore with about a minute and a half left in the first, and went on their second power play of the period. After two shots on net and three Ranger clears, the teams skated into the dressing room with the Rangers still leading by three.
Michal Repik almost got the Cats on the board at the two minute mark with a nifty bit of puck handling deep in the Rangers zone, but couldn’t get it past Lundqvist.
Dmitry Kulikov lit the lamp for the Panthers at the three minute mark with a 45 foot wrister, but the official waved it off. Replays showed that it bounced off the crossbar, and Lundqvist was still pitching a shutout.
Brandon Dubinsky continued the Rangers assault on the Panthers net with a backhanded shot for his fourth goal of the season with eight minutes gone in the second. Ryan mcDonagh collected his second assist of the night on the play.
Two minutes later, Matt Bradley finally got the Panthers on the board with a backhander for his second goal of the season with an assist from Erik Gudbranson. The goal cuts the Rangers lead back down to three.
At the 14 minute mark, Matt Bradley lost his stick during a scrum in front of Jose Theodore. He managed to negate a threat by knocking Brandon Dubinsky over with his hands, and the Panthers don’t seem to be giving this game up just yet.
Tomas Kopecky was called for tripping with 15 minutes gone in the period to put the Rangers on their first power play of the night. New York only got one shot on goal and the Panthers killed the penalty without incident.
The Panthers had a great chance as Brian Campbell fed Stephen Weiss to Kris Versteeg right in front of the net, but Lundqvist has proved hard to solve tonight.
Brian Campbell was tripped by Derek stepan with 14 minutes left in regulation to put the Panthers on their third power play of the night. The Panthers were unable to get set through the first minute, as the Rangers twice cleared the puck out of the zone. In the second minute, they kept consistent pressure on Lundqvist. The netminder even at one point lost his stick and was given one of the defensemen’s sticks to continue play. Even so, the Panthers were unable to cut into the Rangers seemingly insurmountable three goal lead.
Minutes later, Bradley almost beat Lundqvist for his second goal of the night, but was foiled by sometimes friend, sometimes foe, the crossbar.
In a remarkable show of faith, coach Kevin Dineen pulled goaltender Jose Theodore with a three goal deficit with two minutes left to play. The Panthers were unable to get a clear shooting lane throughout the remaining time, as frustration boiled over and Tomas Kopecky punched Michael Del Zotto in the face, opening up a full ice battle royale with only seven seconds remaining. In a symbolic gesture, several players from both teams were assessed penalties, including a game misconduct for Kopecky. As Krys Barch took the ice for the faceoff, the officials told him he could not be out there, as he was obviously going to fight somebody. The game ended without further incident with the final score 4-1.
Hits: Panthers, 43-36 (Matt Bradley led all skaters with nine hits, while Erik Gudbranson collected six and Tomas Kopecky and Shawn Matthias had four each. Dan Giriardi led the Rangers with five hits).
Blocked Shots: Rangers, 18-6 (Stu Bickel logged four for the Rangers and six Panthers had one block each).
Faceoffs: Panthers, 26-21 (Shawn Matthias led the Panthers winning 9 of 16 faceoffs).
Shots On Goal: Panthers, 28-25 (Derek Stepan led all skaters with six. Shawn Matthias had five for the Panthers. Jason Garrison and Stephen Weiss had four shots each).
Score: Rangers 4, Panthers 1