Late goal pushes Panthers past Rangers
NEW YORK — With three-goal leads twice squandered and the game about to be lost, the Florida Panthers were rescued by an unlikely hero Tuesday night.
Denis Malgin scored his first goal of the season with 1:09 remaining in the third period as the Panthers emerged with a 5-4 victory against the New York Rangers in a wild game at Madison Square Garden.
The Panthers entered the second period with a 3-0 advantage and quickly made it 4-1 after J.T. Miller got the Rangers on the board. But Pavel Buchnevich (one goal, two assists), Chris Kreider (two goals, one assist) and David Desharnais (three assists) were the driving force behind the Rangers tying the game at 4 with 6:32 remaining in regulation.
Buchnevich and Kreider scored two minutes apart midway through the second period to make it 4-3, and Kreider scored again in the third period to bring the Rangers all the way back.
However, a defensive breakdown led to Malgin one-timing a puck past Ondrej Pavelec and giving the Panthers their third win in four games. Malgin was playing his fourth game in five nights; he played two in three days with Springfield of the AHL and two straight with the Panthers since he was recalled Monday.
“He’s a good player,” said Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who assisted on Malgin’s score and also recorded a goal and another assist earlier in the game. “It was his fourth game in five days. That’s pretty impressive.”
The Panthers (10-12-2) chased Rangers starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist with goals from Aleksander Barkov, Jamie McGinn and Micheal Haley on six shots in a first period the Rangers otherwise dominated. New York outshot the Panthers 13-6 in the first 20 minutes but couldn’t solve goaltender James Reimer.
Reimer finished with 33 saves, and while the Rangers eventually knotted the game in the third period, the outcome may have different if not for his flawless play in the early going.
“Even though we were up 3-0, we knew the game wasn’t really reflective of the score,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “He knew he needed a big performance and those saves he made in the first period. ... It could have been a lot different first period for us. He was probably our best player.”
The Rangers (13-10-2) had their four-game winning streak overall and eight-game winning streak at home brought an end. Pavelec gave the Rangers a chance to rally by stopping 18 of 19 shots in relief before Malgin’s deciding goal.
“I believed that we could come back,” said Pavelec, who finished with 19 saves. “I was just trying to shut them down and give the guys a chance to regroup and come back. I wasn’t able to come up with one extra save. It’s disappointing because we battled back and I think we deserved at least a point.”
Falling behind early, especially at home, has been a trend for the Rangers this season. It hasn’t hurt them over the past month, as they had won 11 of 13 entering Tuesday. But after finally digging themselves out of the hole, they fell right back in it and couldn’t get out again.
“It’s a huge lesson for us,” said New York’s Rick Nash, whose interference infraction late in the second period negated a goal that would have tied the game at 4. “Not only (needing) a better start again, more so when you come back in a game at home, with a minute left, these are the games you’ve got take at least a point from.”
It seems the Panthers have been finding ways to lose this season. They have yet to win three in a row, and in a recent road game against the Ducks, the Panthers won the shot battle 52-28 but lost 3-2 in regulation, failing to secure at least a point for their effort.
The Panthers, playing the second half of a back-to-back and third game in four nights, flipped the script by securing two points while being mostly outplayed.
Boughner said he hopes that finding a way to win against the Rangers is a sign of things to come for his maligned squad.
“After the game, I told the guys we’ve played lots of games this year where we think we dominated a team and we should’ve had a point, if not two,” Boughner said. “You look back at some of the games on the road trip there — Anaheim — and we didn’t have anything to show for it.
“Tonight, we found a way against a team that probably dominated us for the most part, and it’s a nice feeling when you can find ways to win those games.”
NOTES: Panthers LW Micheal Haley’s goal was his first since March 14 and sixth of his career in 154 games. ... Panthers G James Reimer won the first time since Oct. 26, a span of six appearances and four starts. ... Rangers C Mika Zibanejad (upper body) did not play after practicing in the morning and taking pregame warmups. Coach Alain Vigneault offered no details after the game. ... Rangers D Ryan McDonagh (abdomen) missed his fourth consecutive game but could be ready to return for the team’s next contest Friday at home against the Carolina Hurricanes. ... The Rangers played their league-high 17th home game. ... Florida returns home to face the San Jose Sharks on Friday.