The swoon that started in Winnipeg continued last night as the New York Rangers overpowered the slumping Florida Panthers by a 6-3 count at Madison Square Garden. The Cats have now lost seven of their last eight games (1-6-1) and remain nine points out of playoff spot.
The Panthers grabbed an early lead in this one, with Aleksander Barkov getting his sixth goal at the 4:09 mark of the first period after getting set up not once, but twice by a determined Brad Boyes.
New York evened the game 4:40 later with Florida looking to increase its lead on the power play. Aaron Ekblad misplayed a limp pass from Nick Bjugstad at the blue line and Rick Nash was off to races. The dangerous Nash easily beat a helpless Roberto Luongo for his thirtieth goal of the season.
The Rangers special teams came up big again early in the second period. With rookie Alex Petrovic serving a hooking minor, a nifty hold by Ryan McDonagh led to Kevin Hayes' one-timer. Mats Zuccarello drew the primary helper on Hayes' first career power-play goal.
New York added to their lead midway through the stanza when Marc Staal took a pass from Jesper Fast and fired past Luongo from the top of the circle.
Dave Bolland notched just his second of the season to pull one back for the Cats. Bolland batted in the rebound of his initial shot, which hit the crossbar, after taking a cross-ice feed from Sean Bergenheim . Jussi Jokinen picked up the secondary assist and Petrovic started the play off by deftly keeping the puck in at the blue line.
The Panthers forged a 3-3 tie with 4:30 left in frame on a power-play goal from red-hot Brandon Pirri. Pirri hammered a shot by Henrik Lundqvist to cap off the tic-tac-toe passing of Bolland and Boyes for his fourth goal in the last five games.
After playing the Blueshirts even through two and outshooting them by a 22-17 margin in the process, the wheels fell off the Cats' bus in the third period.
Dan Boyle got the eventual game-winner when he snapped a harmless looking shot towards the net and had it deflect off Willie Mitchell's stick past a shocked Luongo.
The Rangers put the game out reach with 4:02 remaining. Luongo stopped Chris Kreider, but couldn't smother the rebound and Zuccarello knocked it home for his first goal in eleven games.
After Luongo denied Carl Hagelin, who paced the Rangers with an impressive eight shots, on a breakaway and again on the ensuing penalty shot, Nash completed the scoring with an empty-net goal, powering his way past Pirri on his way to the Florida cage.
The Panthers get right back at it tonight with their final visit to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for a tilt against the Brooklyn-bound New York Islanders to complete this three-game road trip.
Odds & Sods
- Another not so great night for Roberto Luongo. The Cats' netminder made some impressive stops here and there, but is looking pretty beatable lately. The Rangers really turned up the heat on Lu and the Florida defense with a staggering 21 shots during the final frame.
- Henrik Lundqvist finished the game 33 saves, including stops on all 14 Panther shots in the third, to post his 25th win of the season.
- In addition to his two helpers, Brad Boyes led the Panthers with five shots. Boyes, the only Cat to finish the game with a plus, was flat-out robbed by Lundqvist late in the game.
- Rough outing for Nick Bjugstad, who failed to come up with nary a shot on goal and finished with a -3 rating. Jimmy Hayes also went -3, but got four shots on the Rangers net.
- Aleksander Barkov's first period tally gave him 11 points (4G/7A) in his last 12 games.
- Rick Nash hit the 30-goal plateau for the eighth time in his career. Nash finished a +2, had two hits, two blocks and seven shots on goal. Quite a night for the veteran power forward.
- While you're blamin' it all on the nights on Broadway, check out Blueshirt Banter for more for Cats-Rangers.