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Panthers 3, Rangers 2

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SUNRISE, Fla. -- The New York Rangers, who could have clinched an Eastern Conference playoff berth with a win, were upset by the last-place Florida Panthers, losing 3-2 Tuesday night at the BB&T Center.

Florida forward Tomas Fleischmann scored in the second period, Marcel Goc got the game-winning power-play goal in the third, and goalie Jacob Markstrom stifled a red-hot Rangers offense to earn the win.

The Panthers also killed a Jonathan Huberdeau tripping penalty with 3:12 left in the game and got an empty-net, short-handed goal by rookie Drew Shore.

The Rangers' Derick Brassard scored with 33 seconds left for the final tally.

However, because the ninth-place Winnipeg Jets lost 5-3 Tuesday night to the Washington Capitals, the Rangers still got closer to the playoffs. The Rangers, who have two games left -- at Carolina and home against New Jersey -- need a total of just two points to clinch the playoffs for the third straight year. A Jets loss in regulation at home against the Montreal Canadiens would also do the trick.

Still, Tuesday's loss had to be disappointing for the Rangers, who were unable to do much against rookie Markstrom and three rookie defensemen: Alex Petrovic, Colby Robak and T.J. Brennan. Petrovic last week became the eighth Panthers player to make his NHL debut this season.

Markstrom made several strong saves, especially early, against the Rangers, who outshot the Panthers 38-16. Markstrom finished with 36 saves.

New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 13 saves.

The Panthers, who snapped a six-game losing streak, also ended New York's three-game winning streak.

Florida welcomed back two forwards to their offense: Peter Mueller, who hadn't played since his wife had a baby boy last Wednesday, and Tomas Kopecky, who was injured and missed his first game of the season Sunday against the Boston Bruins.

Yet it was two defensemen -- Filip Kuba and Mike Weaver -- who initiated the offense, getting assists on Fleischmann's goal, a wrist shot from the left circle with 5:04 elapsed in the second period.

The Rangers got the equalizer with 2:35 elapsed in the third period on a rebound goal by Taylor Pyatt, his sixth score of the season.

After going 27 games without a goal, Pyatt has now scored in two straight games.

Goc got his tip-in goal with 7:37 elapsed in the third period. Fleischmann and Brian Campbell earned the assists.

NOTES: Rangers forward Brian Boyle (knee injury) missed his fourth straight game. He made the trip but hasn't practiced since the injury. Also out but practicing and perhaps nearing a return are forward Derek Dorsett (collarbone) and defenseman Mark Staal (eye). ... The Panthers were without three defensemen Tuesday: Erik Gudbranson (hand), Tyler Strachan (upper body) Dmitry Kulikov (upper body). ... The Rangers are No. 1 in the NHL in fewest penalty minutes allowed. ... The Rangers entered Tuesday on a three-game win streak, having outscored their opponents 18-6 during that span. Brad Richards had seven points in those three games. "I think we're playing our best hockey of the season," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. ... Panthers general manager Dale Tallon, hired on May 17, 2010, has already seen five of his Florida draft picks reach the NHL. Included in that list are all three of his 2010 first-round picks (Gudbranson, Nick Bjugstad and Quinton Howden) and his lone 2011 first-rounder (Jonathan Huberdeau). Making his debut last week at the Rangers was 2010 second-round defenseman Petrovic. Defenseman Mike Matheson, the team's first-rounder in 2012, played this past season at Boston College. ... The Panthers recalled defenseman Robak, 22, from the minors in time for Tuesday's game. ... The Panthers' season ends with a home game Thursday against Toronto and a trip to Tampa Bay on Saturday.
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