The Florida Panthers spotted the New York Rangers a three-goal lead before rallying to cut the deficit down to one in the third period. Unfortunately, the Cats wouldn't be able to salvage a point this time around as the Rangers put the game away with two late goals for a 5-2 win. The loss was Florida's first in regulation at the BB&T Center since a 4-1 defeat to the Minnesota Wild on November 24.
New York carried the play in the opening period, outshooting the Cats 12-7, and took the lead when Chris Kreider scored at the 16:42 mark. Kreider picked up a loose puck that hit Derek Stepan in the back and fired it past Al Montoya, who was making his first start since December 13.
The Rangers added another just 1:29 into the second to build a two-goal advantage. Derick Brassard knocked home the rebound of Ryan McDonagh's initial shot to cap off a four-man rush.
McDonagh notched an unassisted power-play marker at the 14:28 mark of frame to go with his assist, putting the visitors ahead by a commanding margin. The Rangers defender held a clearing attempt in the zone and hammered it past Montoya.
Tomas Fleischmann continued the recent tend of Florida's healthy scratches returning to action with a goal when he got the Panthers on the board 2:10 later. Jonathan Huberdeau drew the lone assist on Flash's fourth of the season by springing the vet with a long breakaway pass.
Florida would claw within one when Jimmy Hayes converted a nifty little feed from Aleksander Barkov in front of the Rangers cage at 7:39 of the final period. Dave Bolland also picked up a helper on the power-play goal.
Martin St. Louis squelched the Cats comeback 2:21 later, redirecting Stepan's rebound past Montoya with his skate. The goal was reviewed and the call on the ice upheld to put the Rangers back ahead by two.
Former Cat Dominic Moore completed the scoring with 4:25 remaining, slipping a St. Louis' rebound by a helpless Montoya. Dylan Olsen failed to hold the puck in the Rangers zone and the fleet St. Louis was off to the races. Stepan collected his third assist of the night by starting the play off.
Henrik Lundqvist turned aside 18 shots to post his 16th win of the campaign. Montoya took the loss, finishing with 29 stops.
The Panthers finished the holiday homestand with a 2-1-1 record and will head out on the road for the next six games.
Odds & Ends
- The victory gave the Rangers a 9-1 record in their last 10 games. The Blueshirts are red-hot right now.
- Jussi Jokinen and defenseman Dylan Olsen led the flat Panthers with three shots on goal apiece.
- Jonathan Huberdeau extended his point streak to three games. Huberdeau has quietly collected 15 in his last 21 games.
- Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein picked up his 100th NHL point with the secondary assist on Chris Kreider's game-opening goal.
- Jimmy Hayes' goal was his 11th of the season, tying his career-high set last year. The big winger, who finished with a -3 rating, now has four goals in his last four games.
- Nick Bjugstad had his modest two-game point streak snapped, but was a monster in the face-off dot, winning 12 of the 14 draws he took.
- Get to the core of the all matters regarding the Rangers at Blueshirt Banter.
- Happy New Year to everyone in the LBC community!!! Looking forward to bigger and better things from the Panthers in 2015.