Rangers 2, Panthers 1 (SO)

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Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange
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SUNRISE, Fla. -- The New York Rangers rallied late, then defeated the Florida Panthers 2-1 in a shootout Tuesday night at the BB&T Center.

In the shootout for, New York right winger Mats Zuccarello and center Derek Stepan missed, but Brad Richards scored.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist stopped all three Panthers shooters -- center Aleksander Barkov, center Jonathan Huberdeau and right winger Brad Boyes.

The Rangers forced overtime when defenseman Dan Girardi got his third goal of the season with 2:10 left in the third period to tie the score at 1.

Parked in the slot, Girardi took a feed from Stepan and snapped a wrist shot that beat Panthers goalie Tim Thomas high to the glove side.

Thomas, 39, playing his first game since he re-injured his groin Dec. 10, lost in a duel with Lundqvist, 31. Thomas made 30 saves in regulation and overtime combined, while Lundqvist stopped 21 shots.

Playing in his 400th NHL game, Thomas saw his season record fall to 9-11-1. He and the rest of the Panthers' defense played well, shutting down the Rangers' power play, which went 0-for-3. On Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Rangers scored three power-play goals.

Lundqvist, who recently signed a long-term contract extension, improved to 12-15-2. His strong performance was a hopeful sign for the Rangers because this so far was the worst season of his stellar NHL career.

He never had a season in which he was less than eight games over .500. In addition, Lundqvist's 2.78 goals-against average and .906 save percentages entering Tuesday also were the worst marks of his career.

On Tuesday, though, both goalies were sharp. Lundqvist made a big early save on Panthers left winger Tomas Fleischmann, and Thomas did the save on Rangers left winger Rick Nash.

One of the big story lines for the Rangers was the return of standout defenseman Marc Staal, who missed 10 games due to a concussion. It was his second concussion of the past two years, and Staal also suffered a serious eye injury last season.

Staal was paired Tuesday with rookie defenseman Conor Allen, playing just his second NHL game.

The Panthers (15-20-6) ended the year losing four of their last five.

New York (20-19-2) ended the year winning four of its last five.

The first goal came with 10:42 left in the second period. Panthers Boyes broke up a goaltenders' duel when he took a centering pass from Barkov and softly slipped the puck between the legs of Lundqvist. It was Boyes' 10th goal of the season.

NOTES: Rangers RW Ryan Callahan (knee) is practicing, albeit with no contact, and he could return in mid-January. ... Healthy scratches for the Rangers: D Michael Del Zotto, LW Taylor Pyatt and D Justin Falk. ... Rangers D Anton Stralman played with an injured left wrist. ... The Panthers' scratches were RW Scottie Upshall, C Scott Gomez and D Mike Mottau. Gomez and Mottau are former Rangers. ... Panthers LW Sean Bergenheim, who missed all of last season due to hip, groin and abdomen injuries, entered Tuesday with four goals in his past three games. ... Tuesday was the final game of the season series between the teams. The Rangers won the two previous meetings. ... Up next for the Panthers is a Saturday game against the Nashville Predators, ending Florida's five-game homestand. ... The Rangers travel to Pittsburgh to play the Penguins on Friday.