Chris Kreider scored a goal and added two assists, Henrik Lundqvist made 39 saves and what looked to be a “phantom goal” sparked the New York Rangers to a 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden.
The Panthers fell back to NHL .500 at 7-7-3 and are now 1-2 on a six-game road trip that stops next in Ottawa.
Kreider and Kevin Hayes combined to set Filip Chytil’s game-opening tally 3:03 into the first period. Hayes was able to track down a long pass from Kredier and chipped it in front to the rookie, who beat Roberto Luongo short-side. The goal was one that Luongo definitely would want back and another instance of the Panthers failing to contain the speed of the opposition down the side boards. The 19-year-old Chytil now has goals in three straight games.
Hoffman extended his scoring streak to 15 games 1:37 later to tie the game. Aleksander Barkov took the puck away from Neal Pionk down low and got it to Evegenii Dadonov. Dadonov fed Hoffman in the left circle and he blasted a one-timer past Lundqvist for his eighth of the season.
The Panthers took the lead with a power-play goal at the 10:11 mark. After taking a pass from Hoffman, Mike Matheson teed up Aaron Ekblad and he fired it home from the top of the left circle. Florida’s has scored power-play goals in eight straight games and Ekblad now has power-plays goals in three in a row. I feel partially responsible as I pointed out Ekblad’s lack of goals on the Broad Street Hockey preview podcast and he has scored every game since then. I kid, I kid...
The lead only lasted for a mere 1:38 as the Cats coughed the puck up in their own end and the Rangers made them pay. Kreider forced the turnover and Lias Andersson found an open Brendan Smith and he solved Luongo, again from a sharp angle on the stick side. Another goal the veteran goaltender would like to have back.
The Rangers would go ahead for good with a disputed goal 2:37 into the second period. Mika Zibanejad won a draw to Vladimir Namestnikov in front and he quickly shot the puck off Luongo’s arm, The puck pinballed up and over the keeper and off his skate before he covered it with his body. The referee ruled the puck crossed the goal line although that was not seen on video replay. A tough break for the Cats as a lack of video evidence usually leads to a no goal call.
Lundqvist would stop 14 shots in both the second and third period and Kreider would bag the only goal of the final frame at 7:56 to clinch the game. Kreider got loose and skated down the left side, right by a statuesque Ekblad, and snapped the puck by Luongo, short side yet again, for a power-play goal that was set up by Pionk and Lundqvist.
The Panthers pulled Luongo early, but could pull no closer. They had some nice possession time and got lots of good looks with the extra attacker, yet most shots went wide and the ones that didn’t were turned aside by Lundqvist, who moved into seventh place on the NHL’s all-time wins list.
A frustrating loss as the Panthers had plenty of shots and scoring chances, but as was the case in Columbus and in some other losses earlier in the season, they couldn’t keep pace offensively as the game wore on. Luongo, who surrendered the 4 goals on just 24 shots, looked a little sluggish in this one and could probably benefit from skipping a start, so maybe we’ll James Reimer go against the Senators again. The call on the Namestnikov goal was a tough, as was seeing Buffalo, Ottawa and Montreal, teams Florida was supposed to be looking down on in the standings, all post wins while Cats continue to scuffle.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)