The Panthers edged out the New York Rangers 3-2 on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden with a thrilling shootout victory, courtesy of goals by Florida centers Vincent Trocheck and Sasha Barkov.
The game allowed Florida to finish its grueling trip at 3-1 and boost its season record to 10-8.
The Panthers started their current trip with a huge 4-3 overtime win over the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Tuesday, but they were then trounced 6-1 two days later by the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Panthers roared back, however, Saturday night with a 4-1 win against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre.
The Panthers have had a mixed record against the Rangers in recent years, going 33-42-6-8 prior to Sunday night’s meeting, including a 14-26-4-1 road record. The Panthers had lost their prior five games at the Garden, and their previous win at MSG was on March 21, 2013, when Florida earned a 3-1 victory.
Saturday’s win over the Senators came via excellent defense by Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo and a lot of luck by the Panthers aside from that. Through much of the first period of Sunday night’s game, it looked like Florida’s luck and strong defense were continuing. About eight minutes into the first period, there was still no score, and the Panthers had taken one more shot — five — than the Rangers had, despite skating away without a goal. About nine minutes went by without the Rangers even taking a shot during the period.
But the Rangers changed all that when New York left wing Chris Kreider scored a goal 13:15 into the first, with assists from defenseman Marc Staal and center Derek Stepan. Kreider’s wrist shot went right past the right shoulder of Panthers goaltender James Reimer. The Rangers didn’t score again in the period. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying, as it finished the period with 14 shots compared to Florida’s measly five.
Most of the second period was a battle of defense, with neither team able to score a goal. But Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle, 14:43 into the period, scored a power-play goal off a slap shot, with assists from Barkov and Trocheck, to finally break through against Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. It was his first goal as a Panther. The period ended in a tie despite the Rangers still far ahead on shots, with 23 to Florida’s 14.
Only 1:45 into the third period, however, the Rangers roared back to take a 2-1 lead as a shot from center Mika Zibanejad deflected into the Panthers’ net past Reimer, with assists from right wing Mats Zuccarello and left wing Jimmy Vesey.
But Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad returned the favor, evening the score 7:54 into the period off a shot that got past Lundqvist, with assists from Trocheck and defenseman Jakub Kindl, who was called up by Florida earlier this month from its AHL affiliate in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Sunday’s game represented a homecoming for Yandle and defenseman Dylan McIlrath, who both returned to the Garden to compete for the first time since leaving the Rangers.
Yandle joined the Rangers for part of the 2014-2015 season after being traded by the Coyotes. The Rangers traded Yandle to the Panthers after the end of last season for a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft and a conditional fourth-rounder in next year’s draft. He scored seven goals and had 51 assists in 103 games for the Rangers.