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Rangers vs Panthers: Rangers Win Big Over Panthers Heading Into the Break

Florida Panthers v New York Rangers Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

The New York Rangers had a pretty rough outing on Sunday night, but nobody is questioning their effort tonight against the Florida Panthers. New York, fueled by their top line, handled the Panthers pretty convincingly in the final 40 minutes en route to a 5-2 victory. Igor Shesterkin certainly had his work cut out for him during the first period with 14 saves, but the Rangers picked him up during the second and third period.

1st Period

Mika Zibanejad (18) - Unassisted - 0:35

It didn’t take very long for the Rangers to get the crowd into the game, as Mika Zibanejad notched his 18th goal of the season. The goal came as a result of a partial 2-on-1 rush entering the offensive zone, with Zibanejad attempting to thread a pass through to Ryan Reaves. Before the puck made it fully across the ice, it took a slight deflection off of Gustav Forsling and deflected back into his own net. Zibanejad was credited with the goal, and the Rangers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead.

Anthony Duclair (19) - Jonathan Huberdeau (47) & Aleksander Barkov (18) - 10:44

Unfortunately for the Rangers, they found out how quickly the Panthers can strike and Florida tied up the game at the 10:44 mark of the first. MacKenzie Weegar made an incredible cross-ice feed over to Anthony Duclair cutting to the net on the right side of the net. The Rangers never picked him up in coverage, and as a result, Duclair was able to walk the puck down uncontested. A heavy wrist shot beat Igor Shesterkin just under the blocker hand, and Florida tied up the game at 1-1.

2nd Period

Sam Reinhart (16) - Aleksander Barkov (19) & Aaron Ekblad (31) PPG - 2:18

An early holding penalty called on K’Andre Miller sent the Panthers to their first power play of the night, and they took advantage. A great zone entry by Aleksander Barkov led to a quick shot on goal that wound up deflecting off of the post. The Rangers were unable to make it back to clear out the loose puck, and Sam Reinhart pounced on the puck in the crease.

Alexis Lafrenière (10) - Chris Kreider (14) - 3:27

Just over a minute later, though, first line winger Alexis Lafrenière tapped home his 10th of the season to bring New York even once again. An excellent forecheck by Chris Kreider in the corner forced a turnover, and the puck landed right on the tape of Lafrenière. After a slight hesitation, Lafrenière tossed a backhand shot on goal towards Spencer Knight. The goaltender was unable to hang onto the shot, and it just barely slipped over the goal line to bring the Rangers back into the game.

Chris Kreider (32) - Ryan Strome (25) & Artemiy Panarin (38) PPG - 17:25

With just about three minutes remaining in the middle frame, the Rangers were able to turn a save into a chance at the other end of the ice. An aware blocker save by Igor Shesterkin put the puck into space for Artemiy Panarin, and he immediately transitioned the puck up the ice. Florida was caught on a partial line change, and Ryan Strome entered the zone on a 2-on-1 rush. Strome finished it off with a incredible saucer pass over the defense, and right onto the tape of Chris Kreider. Kreider doesn’t miss from the front of the net, and he tapped home his league-leading 32nd goal to put the Rangers ahead 3-2.

3rd Period

Chris Kreider (33) - Mika Zibanejad (31) & Artemiy Panarin (39) PPG - 14:39

The Rangers strong play in the offensive zone eventually led to a late hi-sticking penalty on Mason Marchment, and they went to work on another man-advantage. The first power play unit continued their dominance, and Kreider gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead late in the third period. More specifically, I should say Mika Zibanejad put the Rangers ahead with his ridiculous centering feed that he put right on the tape. Kreider quite literally didn’t even need to move his stick as it just slid into the net after banking off of his blade. The huge goal gave the Rangers a commanding two-goal lead with time on their side.

Artemiy Panarin (13) - Unassisted PPG - 19:19

Another penalty call on the Panthers late in the game all but ended any hope for them, but the Rangers weren’t going away without another goal. In the most hilarious scene of the night, Chris Kreider completely bailed on the rush because he knew Panarin would force a hard pass to get him the hat trick. Rather than take the risk, Kreider simply turned the other way so Panarin would be forced to shoot the puck, and he iced the game for the Rangers.

The Rangers have certainly had their fair share of questionable games as of late, but that’s one heck of a game to go into the break on. The first period was a little concerning, but they were able to correct their course, and simply took it to Florida in the final 40 minutes. The Rangers will get a much needed rest for the All-Star break, followed by another week and a half off due to schedule makeups around the league. The Rangers will be back in action starting on February 15, as they take on the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden.