After Saturday's miserable performance against the San Jose Sharks, the New York Rangers followed it up with a strong outing tonight against the Florida Panthers. Given how the California road trip concluded, the Rangers needed a quick start on home ice against the Atlantic leading Panthers. Sure enough, the Rangers controlled the play through 20 minutes and only allowed three total shots against.
They did an excellent job of clogging up passing and shooting lanes, and gave Henrik Lundqvist a relatively simple workload during the first period. The Rangers strong possession play in the early going eventually led to the game's first goal a little past the halfway mark. Viktor Stalberg and Dominic Moore wound up connecting on a beautiful give-and-go play, and Stalberg finished it off on a partial breakaway.
With the Rangers carrying the 1-0 lead over to the second period, they looked to build on their strong play and carry it over to the middle frame. About three minutes into the second, Mats Zuccarello was hauled down by Vincent Trocheck and that sent the Rangers to their first power play of the evening. With a little under a minute remaining on the man-advantage, Zuccarello got his revenge and rifled a beautiful wrist shot over Al Montoya's shoulder while falling down.
The puck wound up deflecting if off of the crossbar, and the Rangers took a commanding 2-0 lead in the game. Heading into the the third period, the Rangers looked to avoid a letdown once again and close out the game with a strong final 20 minutes. However, the Panthers spoiled that notion just 6:51 into the third period, as Vincent Trocheck picked up a nifty deflection in front off of a feed from Jussi Jokinen.
At that point, it looked like the Rangers were going to spiral out of control once again and allow the Panthers to run the show in the offensive zone. Thankfully, the Rangers were able to responded rather quickly, and Rick Nash restored the two goal lead off of a quick pass over from Kevin Klein. That was Nash's first goal since returning from his leg injury, and it wound up being the game winning goal.
The Panthers had a huge opportunity to make this a game with about two minutes remaining in regulation, and went to the power play with Stalberg going off for tripping. Al Montoya bolted for the bench right after the ensuing faceoff, and with 36 seconds remaining, Jiri Hudler pulled the Panthers within a goal. While panic was starting to set in among the fanbase, Tanner Glass iced the game several seconds later and locked up two huge points for the Rangers.
The Rangers will have a scheduled off day tomorrow before they return to action on Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins.