Rangers Vs. Panthers: Rangers Return To First In The East With 4-1 Win Over Florida

SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 30: Brandon Dubinsky #17 of the New York Rangers is congratulated by teammates after scoring a second period goal against the Florida Panthers on December 30, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The New York Rangers didn't wait long to get back into the win column after being destroyed in Washington the other night. With this win, the Rangers return to first in the Eastern Conference, and potentially first in the NHL barring the outcome of the Detroit/Chicago game. It's also worth nothing that the Rangers hit the 50 point mark with this win, I'm not sure the last time the Rangers did that.

Just 35 seconds into the game Carl Hagelin got the Rangers on the board first with a nifty redirection in front. Ryan Callahan made a great pass over the Hagelin who got his stick on the puck, and deflected it short side on Scott Clemmensen. Just five minutes later, Brad Richards sniped for his first point in five games, and gave the Rangers an early 2-0 lead.

Follow after the jump for more.

Michael Del Zotto put in another goal for the Rangers with a big wrist shot from the point. According to the replay, the puck deflected off of the defenseman in front of Clemmensen and the puck beat him over the shoulder. Following the goal by Del Zotto, Scott Clemmensen was replaced by Jose Theodore to finish out the first period.

After the first period, the Rangers had completely dominated the Panthers in all aspects of the game, including the scoreboard. Seven minutes into the second period, Brandon Dubinsky made a fantastic individual effort and powered his way to the net. He would eventually weave his way into the middle of the slot where he would beat Jose Theodore just over the left pad.

Just two minutes later Matt Bradley broke Henrik Lundqvist's shutout and scored off of a weird bounce in front of Lundqvist. The centering pass from Erik Gudbranson deflected off of the skate of Ryan McDonagh and Bradley found the loose puck in front. The Rangers were as dominant in the second period, but still had great play throughout.

The third period was scoreless, but we had quite the hits, and even a dirty sucker punch coming from Tomas Kopecky. Del Zotto and Kopecky were battling in front, and Kopecky caught a stick up high from Del Zotto. Kopecky turned around a popped Del Zotto in the side of the head, and hell broke loose shortly after. Both Prust and Rupp immediately reacted to the incident, and stood up for their teammate, which was great to see.

Henrik Lundqvist had another solid game in net, and the Rangers got back into the winning column. The quick start by the Rangers got this game done early on, and it set the tone. This game was the last meeting before heading off to meet with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2012 NHL Winter Classic.

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