Don’t tell the Florida Panthers the New York Rangers are in a rebuild. Despite giving up three leads during the game, the Rangers pulled out a 5-4 shootout win for their third victory in three tries against a Panthers team that remains stuck in neutral.
Florida finished its eight-game homestand with a frustrating 3-2-3 record that includes four one-goal losses.
Mika Zibanejad was left wide-open in front and knocked in a rebound of Kevin Hayes shot that first deflected off of Jimmy Vesey, who was also open by the way, to start the scoring at 3:37 of the first period.
Hayes outraced and then outworked Aleksander Barkov for a loose puck in the corner before feeding Vladislav Namestnikov for a shorthanded goal with 1:50 left in the frame. Fredrik Claesson drew the second assist with a long clear from behind his own net.
The Panthers power play remained hot with Keith Yandle halving the deficit just 57 seconds into the middle stanza with a hard, dipping drive from the point that went off Henrik Lundqvist’s stick and through his legs. The assists on the goal went to Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Huberdeau.
Those three players would combine on the next Florida goal 3:17 later. Yandle knocked down Anthony DeAngelo’s entry pass at his own blue line, sending Huberdeau and Hoffman away on a 2-on-1 break. Huberdeau elected to take it himself and slipped an off-speed shot under Lundqvist for his 300th NHL point.
After Lias Andersson outworked Bogdan Kiselevich for the puck, Steven Fogarty dropped it back to the point to DeAngelo, who went cross-ice to Brady Skjei. Skjei let go of a shot from the top of the left circle that was heading wide until Matt Beleskey neatly deflected it past a helpless Roberto Luongo at the 6:28 mark.
The Panthers struck back at 18:20 to even the score again. Evgenii Dadonov came up with a turnover at the Rangers line and Huberdeau collected the puck after Dadonov’s pass attempt for Barkov was blocked. Huberdeau cut through the circle and then found Aaron Ekblad streaking in on the opposite side and the defenseman calmly took the pass and lifted the puck over Lundqvist.
Claesson put New York back on top 1:32 into the third when he picked off Mark Pysyk’s clearing attempt after a Rangers dump-in and rifled a rising shot by Luogno’s reaching glove and into the top corner of the net,
After Huberdeau drew a tripping penalty on Zibanejad midway through the period, Barkov would take a pass from Yandle and unleash a wrister, that might of skimmed off the back of Neal Pionk, from just above the left circle that Lundqvist had absolutely no chance on. Hoffman collected the secondary assist for his second power-play point of the night.
The final 9:09 of regulation and overtime, where Mike Matheson had two good opportunities and Namestnikov’s glove-job with 9 seconds to go was disallowed, would produce no goals, so off to the shootout we would go.
Zibanejad and Kevin Shattenkirk would score to give the Rangers the advantage after Barkov was stopped by Lundqvist in the first round. Huberdeau converted in the bottom of the second, but Hayes ended it in round three as the trio of Blueshirt shooters all beat Luongo on the blocker side.
After getting outplayed in the third period of Thursday night’s game against Colorado, the Cats came out and promptly spotted the Rangers a two-goal lead that they never quite recovered from. And just like the game against the Avalanche, they surrendered another shorthanded goal (that’s seven now) that helped turn potential victory into defeat and could never take the lead in that tilt or this one despite having the chances to do. Giving up shorties and playing from behind are not a winning recipe. Lost puck battles led to Ranger goals two through four, and New York made it look easy, very easy, against Luongo in shootout, A disappointing way to end a homestand that looked promising after the game six shutout win over Boston. One gets the sense that something needs to change with this club soon. I’m not sure whether that’s benching guys, trying some new players from Springfield, perhaps a minor trade or the most drastic measure... a coaching change, but something.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)