NEW YORK -- Derick Brassard, Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Mats Zuccarello each finished with two points to lead the New York Rangers to a 6-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
With the victory, the Rangers improved to 22-17-4 and strengthened their tenuous grip on the Eastern Conference's eighth seed.
The Rangers have 48 points. They trail the seventh-seeded New York Islanders by three points. The Islanders defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 on Thursday night, but the Rangers have a game in hand on the Islanders.
One of the themes through the truncated season has been the Rangers' inability to start strong. That was not the case against Florida as the Rangers went into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead.
Brassard opened the scoring 3:05 into the game with a power-play, goal-mouth stuff-in of a Nash rebound. Nash increased the lead to 2-0 6:05 later by ripping a Callahan feed over Scott Clemmensen, who had 24 saves.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored Florida's goal, a wrister over Henrik Lundqvist, who had 33 saves, at 15:17 of the first. The goal was Huberdeau's 14th of the season.
Florida surged after Huberdeau's goal and began pressuring the Rangers. The Panthers outshot New York 35-30. However, discipline was an issue as the Rangers went 2 of 4 on the power play and killed Florida's lone man-advantage opportunity -- a Zuccarello trip in the second period.
Zuccarello made up for the penalty with his second goal of the season 16:34 into the second.
The Rangers turned the game into a rout in the third as Zuccarello and Brassard scored their second goals of the game and Richards potted his seventh of the season.
NOTES: Chris Kreider replaced center Brian Boyle in the Rangers' lineup. Boyle suffered an undisclosed injury in Tuesday night's 4-2 loss to the Flyers in Philadelphia. New York coach John Tortorella said in his pregame press conference that there were organizational discussions about other players, but the decision to call up Kreider was made "to try to play with more pace." ... Tortorella announced Boyle "won't be in" Friday's game in Buffalo and Sunday's matinee game against the New Jersey Devils. ... New York announced Thursday morning that the organization agreed to terms with free-agent forward Michael Kantor. A 21-year old right winger, Kantor had 33 points (20 goals, 13 assists) and 93 penalty minutes in 56 regular-season games with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League. Kantor had four points (two goals, two assists) and 12 penalty minutes in nine playoff games. ... Florida entered the game with an NHL-worst 13-23-6 record.