The New York Rangers bounced back from Wednesday’s 4-1 loss against Washington with a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers Friday night. New York grabbed control of the game from the start and with the win retook first place in the Eastern Conference, one point of the idle Boston Bruins. The Rangers will have the next two days off before hitting the ice Monday in Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Flyers.
Carl Hagelin got the Rangers on the board just 35 seconds into the game when he deflected a Ryan Callahan pass behind Panthers’ goaltender Scott Clemmensen. The goal was the fastest the Rangers have scored to open a game this season.
Brad Richards pushed the advantage to two when he beat Clemmensen with a snap shot 5:10 into the first. The Rangers needed a little luck as Jeff Woywitka’s outlet pass seemed like it would be easily intercepted in the neutral zone, but it found Richards and he made the most of the opportunity. The goal along with an assist later in the game snapped Richards five game point drought and hopefully will snap him out of a funk that has seen him score only four points in the prior 12 games.
The Rangers pushed the advantage to three when Michael Del Zotto fired from the left point and had his shot deflect off a Florida Panther and in late in the first period. The goal was Del Zotto’s fifth of the season and sixth point in the last five games. Following the goal the Panthers pulled Clemmensen and replaced him with Jose Theodore.
Brandon Dubinsky continued his recent hot play towards the middle of the second period when he used strong work along the boards to work out in front and beat Theodore with a backhander. The goal was Dubinsky’s third along with two assists in the last five games.
The Panthers got on the board just 1:47 later when Dubinsky failed to clear the zone along the boards and the puck ended up on Matt Bradley’s stick in the slot.
There was no scoring in the third period, but there was some action with 7.6 seconds left after Michael Del Zotto cross-checked Tomas Kopecky setting off a fight. Kopecky responded to the cross-check by punching Del Zotto in the face, which led to Mike Rupp beating on Kopecky. It will be interesting to see if any of that carries over into the final meeting between the two teams next Thursday.