Panthers pull out 4-3 shootout win over Rangers

Barkov winner gives Cats two huge points

Down two after the first period, the Florida Panthers pulled themselves off the mat and rallied for a huge 4-3 shootout win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

The victory, which ended a four-game road losing streak, pulled the Panthers back within five points of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the Eastern Conference’s second wild card.

New York’s Mats Zuccarello opened the scoring with a power-play goal just 2:34 into the action. Zuccarello one-timed Chris Kreider’s centering feed by James Reimer to cap off a rush also involving Derek Stepan.

The hole grew deeper when J.T. Miller took a short pass from Brendan Smith in the right circle and beat Reimer with a wrist shot 1:37 later to make it 2-0. Mika Zibanejad drew the second helper on the play.

The Panthers got on board 1:25 into the middle frame when Jonathan Huberdeau knocked the rebound of Alex Petrovic’s blast off the post into the net. Jaromir Jagr collected an assist for tipping the puck to Huberdeau before he put the puck past a helpless Antti Raanta.

An interference call on Brady Skjei set the stage for Jussi Jokinen’s equalizer at the 6:41 mark. Jokinen roofed a beautiful no-look pass from Thomas Vanek, who has six assists in the last three games, for his eleventh goal. Jason Demers picked up the secondary helper on the power-play marker.

Florida took the lead 7:23 into the third period when Aleksander Barkov completed a pretty three-way passing play involving linemates Jagr and Huberdeau. Jagr’s fine cross-ice pass through the crease left Barkov with an easy put away.

The Rangers evened things up 4:22 later on Zuccarello’s second goal of the game. Zuccarello took a pass from Smith and quickly  flung wrister from the right dot that eluded Reimer. Defenseman Nick Holden also collected an assist for the home side.

After overtime failed to produce a winner, the game went to the shootout where Barkov scored the lone goal of the skills competition in the top of the second round. Florida’s number one pivot showed off his quick mitts before shoveling the puck upstairs to light the lamp.

It was up to Michael Grabner to extended the game, but he missed the net to give the Panthers the precious bonus point.

The Cats finish will finish off this tough three-game road trip tomorrow afternoon in Pittsburgh against the injury-riddled Penguins.

Bulls & Bears

  • Jaromir Jagr made a little more history during the game. Jagr’s two assists gave him 269 points after the age of 40, moving him past legend Gordie Howe for the most in NHL history.
  • The Rangers have lost six consecutive games (0-4-2) at Madison Square Garden. The last time the Broadway Blueshirts won on home ice was February 19, against Washington.
  • J.T. Miller’s first period marker gave the 24-year-old forward his second straight twenty-goal season.
  • James Reimer finished with 29 stops and denied Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad in the shootout before Michael Grabner’s miss.
  • Antti Raanta made 34 saves and fell to 14-7-1 on the season. Raanta has done a fine job filling in for the injured Henrik Lundqvist and could find himself as the starter in Las Vegas next year.
  • Michael Matheson logged a game-high 25:21 of ice-time and registered three shots on goal, two blocks and a hit. Nice game, rook!
  • In addition to his assist, Derek Stepan led all skaters with six shots and won 14 of 20 faceoffs.
  • Blueshirt Banter has got you covered for the other side of Florida’s second straight shootout win of 2016-17 at MSG./