Over the course of their now 21 seasons, Florida has faced the New York Rangers a total of 83 times, and has accrued a 32-38-6-7 record and a .464 points percentage in head-to-head action. In preparation for the action tonight, we'll look back on Florida's first five seasons in the NHL. Specifically, their history against the Rangers.
Florida's first ever matchup against the Rangers was on November 16th, 1993. The Panthers took a loss to drop to 7-9-3 on the season, 4-2 to 13-5-2 New York. Brian Leetch (one goal, one assist) and Sergei Zubov (two assists) each had two point nights, while Kevin Lowe and Adam Graves also beat John Vanbiesbrouck (23 saves). Dave Lowry and Andrei Lomakin lit the lamp for the Cats. * Box Score
A month later on December 22nd, the Panthers earned their first ever win over New York. Lowry and Scott Mellanby each had a goal and an assist while Jesse Belanger tabbed two assists. Jody Hull also scored as the Cats turned in a 3-2 decision in front of 33 Vanbiesbrouck saves. * Box Score
The original Florida team ended up going 2-3-0 that year against the Rangers. The shortened 1994-95 season would see the Panthers post a 1-2-1 record against the Rags by a combined score of 13-to-7, including a 0-0 tie on February 28th. The only Panthers win was on May 2nd, behind a goal and two assists by Magnus Svensson and two goals from Jody Hull. The Beezer stopped 31-of-34 shots in the 4-3 victory. * Box Score
In 1995-96, Florida went even against New York for the first time in their history, posting a 2-2-1 record. All five contests came in the last third of the season, and both Panthers' wins came at the very end. They won 5-3 on April 8th with multi-point games from Tom Fitzgerald (two goals), Johan Garpenlov (one goal, one assist), Bill Lindsay (one goal, one assist), and Robert Svehla (two assists). As in most wins those days, Vanbiesbrouck was between the pipes, stopping 38 shots. In the last regular season game on April 14th, Florida earned a 5-1 win as Beezer stopped 18-of-19. Rob Niedermayer (one goal, two assists), Garpenlov (one goal, one assist), Mellanby (one goal, one assist) and Jason Woolley (two assists) provided the firepower. * April 8th * April 14th
Of course, the Panthers went on to win the 1996 Eastern Conference Title. The following season would see them earn a 3-1-2 win-loss record in head-to-head combat versus the Rangers. In the second game of the season on October 6th, Niedermayer and Brian Skrudland each lit the lamp twice and Vanbiesbrouck turned aside 34 Rangers shots in a 5-2 win. On October 25th, Florida won 6-4 with multi-point games from Per Gustafsson (one goal, two assists), Garpenlov (two assists), Mellanby (two assists), and Ray Sheppard (two assists). Stu Barnes, Jody Hull, Lowry and Niedermayer also scored for the Cats, and Vanbiesbrouck mad 28 saves. The month of October closed with Florida at 8-0-4, including a 2-0-2 record against New York. * October 6th * October 25th
Florida earned the fourth seed with a 35-28-19 record, and home-ice in the first round against New York. Game One would see Florida shut out the Rangers, 3-0 on goals by Kirk Muller, Garpenlov, and Niedermayer, and 34 saves by Vanbiesbrouck. Unfortunately, their regular season success against the Blueshirts did not translate to the postseason after that first game, and the Cats would find themselves outscored 14-to-8 in losing the next four games. * Box Score
In 1997-98, the Panthers stumbled to only 63 points, with a 24-43-15 record. Their season series versus the boys in blue served as a microcosm of the season at large, as the Cats managed only one win and one tie in five tries. Their only win came on December 12th, when Radek Dvorak scored twice, Vanbiesbrouck made 28 saves, and Terry Carkner and David Nemirovsky each also tallied markers in a 4-3 win. * Box Score
Tonight's game will be the first of three this season between Florida and the Rangers, and Florida is 8-3-3 in their last 14 contests. It's important also to consider that even though the Panthers currently sit at ninth in the Eastern Conference playoff race in points, with 41, they are also fourth in the Atlantic Division in points percentage, at .603. Make sure you check back later for the gamethread, around 5:30ish.