It sure as heck wasn't pretty, but the New York Rangers found yet another way to win, and completed the weekend sweep with a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers. The Rangers certainly didn't deserve two points tonight, but a combination of timely goals, and a huge performance from Cam Talbot helped them come out on top. It was also a night of firsts as well, as both James Sheppard and Matt Hunwick scored their first goals in a Rangers sweater.
Early on in this game, the Rangers controlled a majority of the play, and wound up doubling up the Panthers on shots by a count of 12-6. After generating a handful of chances, the Rangers finally broke the ice at the 17:44 mark as the fourth line came through with their first goal of the night. Matt Hunwick started the entire play with a quick slap pass over the Dominic Moore, but the puck took a strange bounce to the front of the net. James Sheppard finished it off by being in the right place at the right time, and deflected it in behind Dan Ellis for the 1-0 lead.
From the first period on, the Panthers completely turned their game around, and kept the Rangers on their heels for the final 40 minutes. If not for Cam Talbot standing on his head, this game probably would have been way out of hand at the end of the second period. Just during the second period alone, Talbot turned away 20 shots from the Panthers, and kept the 1-0 lead intact heading into the third period.
Once again, the Panthers continued their dominance at the start of the third period, but Cam Talbot continued to stand in the way. About eight minutes into the final frame, the Rangers caught a bounce, and Matt Hunwick bombed home a shot from just inside the blue line. At first, it appeared as if Jesper Fast deflected the puck in front, but the replay eventually showed that it tipped off of Ellis' shoulder.
After being out played as bad as they were, the Rangers were sitting comfortably with a 2-0 lead at the halfway mark of the third period. However, the Panthers struck back quickly with a goal of their own, and cut the lead back to a single goal at the 10:11 mark. Brandon Pirri ripped a quick wrist shot off of the face-off win by Nick Bjugstad, and slipped the puck through the legs of Cam Talbot.
As the Panthers continued to work in search of the tying goal, things took a turn for the worst as Ryan McDonagh was whistle down for a late hooking penalty. With under three minutes remaining, the Panthers elected to pull the goaltender, which set up a 6-on-4 power play for the closing minutes. The Rangers were able to keep the Panthers to the outside, and didn't allow them to get any threatening chances in close.
Finally, after killing off the final few seconds, the Rangers secured their fifth straight victory, and gave themselves a five point stranglehold on the Metropolitan Division. With the Rangers completing a back-to-back this weekend, they will be off until Wednesday, when they welcome the Chicago Blackhawks into Madison Square Garden.