After having their nine game winning streak snapped on Thursday night, the New York Rangers responded tonight with a 5-4 overtime victory over the Florida Panthers. Despite giving up two goals late in the third period, the Rangers were able to regroup in overtime, and Rick Nash capped off the hat trick with the game winning goal. This game was huge in terms of confidence for Nash, and he finally had the offensive explosion everyone had been waiting for since notching his first goal.
Nash got the goal scoring started just 11 minutes into the first period, and capped off a beautiful pass play between Mats Zuccarelo and Ryan McDonagh. With Roberto Luongo deep in his crease, Nash ripped a high shot just under the crossbar, and gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead. The Rangers were able to hang onto their 1-0 lead for the remainder of the first period, and looked to carry over their strong play into the second period.
However, the Panthers had other plans and Nick Bjugstand knotted the game at one coming off a beautiful centering feed from Brandon Pirri. The chance was created after the Rangers failed to clear the zone on multiple occasions, and the turnover by Viktor Stalberg allowed the Panthers to come out of the corner with a 2-on-1.
A few moments later, Rick Nash put the Rangers back on top after he came storming down the wing, and slipped the puck past Luongo on the short-side. The power move to the net was vintage Rick Nash, and it restored the Rangers one goal lead a little over midway through the second period. That lead would only last for another five minutes or so as Jussi Jokinen brought the Panthers even once again.
Jokinen got just enough of a deflection on Brandon Pirri's point shot, and sent the puck just over Lundqvist's glove to make it a 2-2 game. After surrendering the late goal in the second, the Rangers responded with two huge goals coming from Mats Zuccarello and Viktor Stalberg. Zuccarello got the party started with a beautiful move on the breakaway, and faked Roberto Luongo out of his pants with a subtle move to the backhand.
Two minutes later, Stalberg collected a slick feed from Oscar Lindberg behind the net, and ripped it past Luongo's blocker to make it a 4-2 game. At that point in the game, it appeared as if Stalberg's goal would be the final nail in the coffin, but the Panthers came storming right back.
During the last 2:12 of regulation, the Panthers were able to put two goals up on the board within a span of1:19 and pulled even for the third time this evening. While the goals the Panthers scored were well deserved, this was an utterly disgraceful tailspin by the Rangers, and they left Henrik Lundqvist out to dry on both goals. With the tying goal still fresh in their memory, the Rangers marched forward and went to work on the power play early in overtime.
Less than a minute into the man-advantage, Rick Nash caught a handoff pass from Derick Brassard at the top of the circle, and ripped the game winning goal past Luongo. Mats Zuccarello did a tremendous job in front of the net, and allowed Nash to pick the corner by taking away all of Luongo's vision.
It certainly wasn't a pretty win by any means, especially with the late game collapse, but the Rangers found a way to grab two points. That seems to be a common theme for this year's Rangers team, and they will have another opportunity on Monday night against the Nashville Predators.