By Bill Whitehead
SUNRISE — Florida Panthers goaltender Jacob Markstrom showed the New York Rangers a glimpse of what they can expect in future divisional play, halting the Blueshirts’ quest for a playoff spot in the process — for now.
Markstrom stopped 36 shots, and Tomas Fleischmann, Marcel Goc and Drew Shore scored goals to help the Panthers break a six-game losing streak and get past the Rangers, 3-2, in front of 17,758 fans at BB&T Center on Tuesday night.
Following a scoreless first period in which Florida (14-26-6) was outshot 10-2 by the visiting Rangers, Filip Kuba’s shot from above the left circle was tipped by Fleischmann at 5:04 into the second period, resulting in the Czech winger’s 10th goal. Defenseman Mike Weaver also recorded an assist on the play, and the Panthers held a 1-0 advantage after 40 minutes.
“We know the Rangers focus on blocking our shots so we’re not trying to mess around with it on the blue line. I had a good screen and maybe Fleischmann tipped it, I’m not sure,” said Kuba, who was originally credited with the goal, following the second period.
After Taylor Pyatt was awarded a goal when his shot was accidentally kicked in by Colby Robak, Florida defenseman T.J. Brennan jumped up after a loose puck, forcing New York’s Brad Richards to commit a tripping penalty as Brennan broke into the Rangers’ defensive zone. Florida went on the power play, and Goc, standing in the slot, broke the 1-1 tie by redirecting a pass from Fleischmann past New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist for his eighth goal with 7:37 left.
Drew Shore broke a 22-game streak without a goal, including 18 without a point, by scoring shorthanded and into an empty net with 1:23 remaining in the game, his third tally. With Lundqvist pulled in the last minute of play, New York watched newly acquired center Derick Brassard cut the lead to 3-2 with 32.9 seconds left. However, Florida fought off a pair of good attempts by New York in the closing seconds to preserve the win.
Drew Shore on his night’s work and the season:
Florida has two games remaining and still sits in last in the league’s standings. A loss to either Toronto at home on Thursday or in Tampa on Saturday in the season finale would slot the Panthers with the best chance of securing the top overall pick and assure them of picking no worse than second in the June 30 draft in Newark.
Panthers coach Kevin Dineen discusses his defense, rookie
Alex Petrovic and beating the New York Rangers:
The Rangers (24-18-4) outshot Florida 38-16 but wasted a chance to clinch its third straight playoff appearance and are just one point ahead of Winnipeg, who lost 5-3 in Washington. The Jets have one game remaining, at home against Montreal, while New York travels to Carolina on Thursday and rounds out the season at home against New Jersey. The Rangers and Ottawa Senators are tied for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, with the Jets just the one marker in arrears.
Florida won the season series 2-1 from the Rangers, also beating them 3-1 behind Markstrom on March 21. New York defeated Florida 6-1 last week.