After seeing their eight game losing streak vanish Monday night against the Dallas Stars, the New York Rangers responded tonight with a huge 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers. That now gives the Rangers a 9-1-0 record over their last ten games, and they continue to make up ground in the standings. With the Washington Capitals idle tonight prior to tomorrow's Winter Classic, the Rangers officially surpassed them for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
Throughout the opening minutes of the first period, the Rangers carried a majority of the possession, but Al Montoya was able to keep them in check. After several shifts with solid offensive zone time, Kevin Klein hit Chris Kreider with a crisp breakout pass, and sent him in on a partial breakaway. Kreider was able to make a strong move to his backhand, but was unable slip the puck around Montoya and shovel it into the wide open net. Just a few minutes later though, Kreider wound up redeeming himself as he cashed in on a bouncing puck at the top of the crease.
Kreider kept himself planted in front of the net, and also outworked Aaron Ekblad in order to pounce on the loose puck that ricocheted back out in front of the net. With Montoya unable to pick up the loose puck through traffic, Kreider ripped a high shot on net, and it wound up sailing over Montoya's shoulder to make it 1-0 Rangers. With a solid first period under their belts, the Rangers carried that momentum over to the second period where they would pile another pair of goals to make it 3-0.
Only 1:29 into the second period, Derick Brassard slammed home a rebound off of a perfectly placed shot by Ryan McDonagh, and extended the Rangers lead to 2-0 lead. McDonagh was a monster all night long, and created this entire goal by jumping up into the rush to get a hard wrist shot on net. With Brassard crashing the net on the far side, McDonagh placed the shot right off of Montoya's pads, and gave Brassard a wide open net for the slam dunk.
As the period carried on, the Rangers continued to carry the play which eventually resulted in the first power play of the night at the 13:22 mark. About a minute into the man advantage, Ryan McDonagh blasted, and I mean blasted home his first goal of the night which gave the Rangers a comfortable 3-0 lead. McDonagh once again showed his offensive prowess to not only keep the puck in with his skate, but then quickly teeing up the shot and blasting it over Montoya's shoulder.
However, the Rangers were caught sleeping on their lead, and Tomas Fleischmann converted just over two minutes later to cut the lead to 3-1. Martin St. Louis tried to get a little too fancy in the offensive zone, and coughed the puck up to Jonathan Huberdeau along the boards. Kevin Klein was unable to react to the quick turnover, and was caught in no man's land as Fleischmann broke up ice and went in a partial breakaway. Klein almost made it back in time to make a play, but Fleischmann ripped a quick wrist shot, which beat Henrik Lundqvist to the stick side and cut the Rangers lead to 3-1.
Despite giving up the late second period goal, the Rangers played a relatively solid period, and went into the intermission with a two goal lead. Just 7:14 into the third period, though, the Rangers were put in a tough spot as Marc Staal was whistled down for a questionable high sticking call. Only thirty seconds into the ensuing power play, Jimmy Hayes got his stick on a centering feed from Aleksander Barkov and redirected it over Lundqvist's shoulder to cut the lead to a single goal.
Just like that, the Rangers three goal lead had vanished, and suddenly there was a uneasy feeling coming about as the Panthers continued swarming. However, just over two minutes later, Martin St. Louis came to the rescue and had the puck go in off of his skate on a net-front scramble in the high slot. The play wound up going to review up in Toronto, but it was deemed that there was no distinct kicking motion, which extended the lead to 4-2.
With the Rangers finally getting their legs back following the St. Louis goal, Dominic Moore closed out the scoring at the 15:35 mark to give the Rangers the 5-2 win. Martin St. Louis picked up the primary assist on the goal, as he was denied on the initial breakaway attempt, but the rebound kicked right out to Dom Moore and he slammed it home for his second of the season.
The Panthers were unable to generate much following the two Ranger goals, and the Rangers closed out 2014 with a big 5-2 win over the Florida. After ringing in the new year later on tonight, the Rangers will be back in action this upcoming Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden.