The Florida Panthers sent a message to the rest of the league last night, as they won their third game in a row with a 2-1 victory over a pesky New York Rangers team.
Florida, who has not made the playoffs in 11 seasons, entered the game in second place in the Eastern Conference. The had won their previous two games, a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins followed by a massive 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils in regulation after trailing 3-0 on Monday night.
Jason Garrison got things started for the Panthers on the powerplay in the first period as he wired home his 8th of the season to put Florida up 1-0. Garrison now leads all defensemen in the league in goals.
In the second, the Panthers would add to their lead as the red hot line of Weiss, Fleischmann and Versteeg would go to work. Fleischmann fed Versteeg the puck in close, and Steeger made no mistake sliding it past Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist for the 2-0 lead.
Derek Stepan managed to beat Panthers goaltender Jose Theodore in the second period to cut the lead to 2-1, but it wouldn’t be enough as Theodore shut the door the rest of the way making 19 saves, to preserve the 2-1 victory.
Florida managed to outshoot the Rangers 38-20 as they managed 31 over the last two periods. But, Henrik Lundqvist did everything he could to keep his team in it.
“He’s a darn good goalie,” Versteeg said. “You’ve got to throw everything you’ve got at him. He’s one of the best, if not the best goaltender in the entire League. We fired away at him tonight and we found a way to win, which is big for us.”
New York Rangers center Andre Deveaux was called for a very dirty play as he raised his elbow to the face of Tomas Fleischmann sending him to the ice, and eventually forcing him to leave the game, but he did return. Deveaux was called for a dangerous hit to the head, and was ejected from the game.
Florida Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen spoke about the hit after the game.
“Every year the NHL puts out a video on what is legal and not legal. A hit like that would be one example of an incredibly... boy, that was... there’s a guy that’s only played a few games in the NHL. You can see it. The refs certainly got the right call calling a match penalty. At the end of the year you put together tapes on what’s really wrong with the game, that hit would be one of them.”
When Deveaux was asked about the hit, he said, “I haven’t even seen it yet. It just happened quick. I probably shouldn’t comment on it until after I see it. I did elbow him, but he came back (in the game), and that’s good.”
Florida is now 3-0 on the current homestand, and they will close it out Friday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning, with whom they will play a home and home series with, concluding on Saturday night in Tampa. The Panthers currently sit 2nd in the East, with a two point lead on Washington. Meanwhile, the Rangers who have lost two straight since their 7-game winning streak will head to Washington to take on the Capitals Friday night.