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Rangers Vs. Panthers: OK Effort, Needed Result

Notes from the Rangers big win over the Panthers.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

- You'd be forgiven if you missed the game and only looked at the final score to assume the Rangers had their way with the Panthers last night. You'd also be wrong. The Rangers blew a 3-1 lead and survived the oncoming storm from the Panthers before blowing them out of the water in the third period. Good win? Yes, especially because the Rangers came dangerously close to letting the game spiral out of their control, but they righted the ship and finished strong.

- There were a lot of offensive positives last night. Rick Nash (two goals) continues to be an animal, and he led a top six that started out slow but made things happen in the third period. Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello (more on him in a minute), Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider all had good games in the offensive zone. Some of them had slow starts, but you can overlook it because the Rangers walked away with the two points. Didn't notice Martin St. Louis all that much, though.

- I wouldn't even argue that was one of Zuccarello's best games in a while. Yes, he finally scored a goal and added an assist, but he's been pretty good the puck just isn't going in. It happens. And I've argued this a lot for Stepan before, but pass-first guys are at the mercy of their wingers in terms of putting up points.

- As good as the offense was, the defense was just as bad. Ryan McDonagh had another really forgettable game. Dan Girardi and Marc Staal can be lumped in the same boat. Kevin Klein was pretty good, and Dan Boyle had his moments. John Moore was probably the Rangers best defenseman. Read that sentence again.

- The Rangers fourth line got eaten alive last night. Just obliterated on back-to-back shifts in the second that gave the Panthers a ton of momentum and eventually lead to the goals. Tanner Glass had four botched clearing attempts in one shift, contributing to him giving up seven shots against and generating zero through the first two periods. Dominic Moore and Lee Stempniak struggled as well. Shortly after that, Alain Vigneault moved Kevin Hayes to the fourth line where he too saw his possession obliterated. Then Moore suddenly found his legs and made a few things happen. Hmmm, wonder the correlation there.

- Yes, I know I beat the Glass drum pretty hard. I'm aware it gets repetitive. But the Rangers were a four-line team last year, that relied heavily on the fourth line to play brutal defensive minutes. Glass was getting offensive zone starts last night. You know what happens when Vigneault does that? A guy like Nash needs to start in the defensive zone to make up for it. If you don't see that as being a problem, then we're on different wavelengths.

- Henrik Lundqvist was pretty friggin' good last night, no? Sure he gave up three goals, but I'm not sure what more he could have done. The Rangers overload penalty kill strategy leaves the man on the side of the net wide open every time, and the Panthers exploited that. But when the chips were on the table and the game was all knotted up at three? Lundqvist bailed the Rangers out time and time again. Even in the third when the game was close he made two or three vital saves.

- The Rangers very desperately needed those two points. The top eight in the East might be set, but where the teams finish aren't anywhere close. The Rangers are now two points behind the Penguins with two games in hand, and three points behind the Islanders with one game in hand. These points matter. Especially with a massive tilt against Boston coming up.