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Rangers relish offensive outburt despite late letdown in win

The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- They nearly squandered a 3-0 lead in the final eight minutes, but the New York Rangers were not about to apologize.

Not after they beat the Florida Panthers 5-2 Wednesday night at the BB&T Center.

Not after they won their conference-leading ninth road game of the season.

And not after the goal-starved Rangers scored five for just the third time this season.

"The Rangers scored five goals -- we haven't said that very often this year," New York coach Alain Vigneault said. "Hopefully some of our guys can continue on that roll."

New York's win was in stark contrast to Monday's embarrassing 5-0 loss at Tampa Bay.

Even so, it wasn't easy as the Panthers scored two third-period goals to make it a game, getting tallies from right winger Scottie Upshall with 7:32 left and center Nick Bjugstad with 3:43 remaining. It was Upshall's fifth goal of the season and Bjugstad's third.

However, a hooking penalty against Panthers rookie center Aleksander Barkov with 2:39 remaining stalled Florida's momentum, and Rangers center Mats Zuccarello scored a power-play goal with 1:28 left to put Florida away.

It was Zuccarello's third goal of the season. He also had his 11th assist earlier in the game, also on the power play.

Rangers left winger Carl Hagelin added an empty-net goal with 23.1 seconds left for the final tally.

Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (8-10), who allowed four goals Monday against Tampa and was pulled after two periods, was especially good against Barkov on Wednesday. He robbed him twice, once right in front with 17:05 left.

"I think it was a game of mistakes," Lundqvist said. "We made them pay a couple times. Special teams came up big, and we made some great plays at the right time."

The loss went to Panthers goalie Tim Thomas (6-8), who started his 10th straight game.

New York is 12-1-0 when scoring first.

With 5:49 elapsed in the first period, the Panthers got the game's first power-play chance as Rangers defenseman Justin Falk was sent off for high-sticking. But the Panthers could not get a shot during the two-minute penalty.

In sharp contrast, the Rangers scored just 25 seconds into their first power-play opportunity, with 12:13 elapsed in the first period.

Two slick passes opened up Zuccarello for a slap shot from above the right circle. Rangers center Derick Brassard deflected the puck past Thomas for his fifth goal of the season, giving New York a 1-0 lead.

The Rangers' power play had been just 3-for-26 in the past seven games, but it went 2 of 3 against Florida.

With 1:07 left in the second period, Rangers center Brad Richards scored unassisted to give New York a 2-0 lead. His seventh goal of the season went through the legs of three Panthers, including Thomas.

"I guess you can call that a seeing-eye-dog goal," Panthers coach Peter Horachek said.

Earlier in the second period, Hagelin was penalized two minutes for slashing, but Florida again failed to get a shot during its power play.

Two minutes later, Lundqvist again stoned Barkov, who had gotten behind the Rangers' defense.

"I didn't think we were very good on the power-play tonight," Horachek said. "That was a big factor. They won on special teams."

The Rangers made it 3-0 when Rick Nash picked up a loose puck with 14:28 left in the third period and scored unassisted, beating Thomas stick-side. It was Nash's second goal of the season in just his fifth game back from a concussion that cost him nearly six weeks.

"He is a superstar," Zuccarello said of Nash. "He's a player you look at and learn from. He has been out for a while, so it's going to take some time. But he has a couple goals now, and he is really important to our lineup."

NOTES: Rangers D Michael Del Zotto was a healthy scratch. Del Zotto, 23, a former first-round pick, is reportedly on the trading block after leading the Rangers' defensemen in scoring last season under previous coach John Tortorella. ... Panthers C Jesse Winchester, who suffered a lower-body injury Monday, was scratched. ... Panthers D Mike Mottau was a healthy scratch. ... Still out for the Panthers are D Ed Jovanovski (hip), D Matt Gilroy (lower body) and LW Tomas Kopecky (hand). Kopecky hopes to play Saturday, when he is eligible to come off injured reserve. ... The Rangers activated Taylor Pyatt, who had suffered a concussion Nov. 7, and sent rookie LW J.T. Miller, a former first-round pick, to the AHL. ... Rangers RW Derek Dorsett (sprained wrist) was scratched. ... Vigneault said Lundqvist will start the Rangers' next game, Friday at Boston. ... Up next for the Panthers is a home game Saturday against Pittsburgh.
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