Zuccarello, Zibanejad lead Rangers past Panthers 5-2
NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Rangers turned to two of their top goal-scorers to rally past the Florida Panthers.
Mats Zuccarello and Mika Zibanejad each scored twice as New York snapped a two-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over Florida on Tuesday night and won for the first time in regulation this season.
“I’m not saying we played great tonight but find a way to win. That’s what you have to do,” a relieved Rangers coach David Quinn said after earning his third victory in his inaugural season. “You are not going to have 82 great nights. You got to find ways to win when you are not on your ‘A’ game.”
Kevin Hayes also scored, Neal Pionk added two assists and Alexandar Georgiev made 36 saves for New York, which scored a season-high five goals on Madison Square Garden ice.
Vincent Trocheck and Mike Hoffman each scored their third goals of the season, and Jonathan Huberdeau had two assists for the Panthers, who fell to 1-3-3 despite holding the lead in each game.
“We have to manage games a little better,” Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said. “We have to play confident when we have the lead. I think it’s one of those things where we’re letting it get away from us. A team gets a goal (and) it seems like we’re letting them get another. It comes on us to fix that and find a solution.”
Georgiev earned his first win of the season in his second appearance. The Russian netminder returned to the NHL after a two-game stop in the American Hockey League.
Michael Hutchinson stopped 15 shots in his fourth game for Florida.
The Rangers benefited from strong special teams play, registering two power-play goals and a short-handed goal.
The Panthers outshot the Rangers 14-5 in the opening period and took a 1-0 lead when Trocheck’s shot sailed past Georgiev at 18:15. Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov picked up the helpers while captain Aleksander Barkov screened the goaltender.
The Rangers stormed back with three unanswered goals in the second period. Zibanejad scored his first of the game with a pretty wraparound while New York was short-handed due to a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty at 3:10. Adam McQuaid picked up the assist.
“It was big after a terrible first,” Zuccarello said. “We came out hungrier, making smart plays and helping each other out.”
Zuccarello benefited from a fortuitous bounce as his shot deflected off Panthers defenseman Michael Matheson’s legs and into the goal at 11:36. Pionk registered the first of his two assists on the goal and extended his points streak to three games.
At 16:08 of the second period, Zibanejad struck again with a wrist shot that beat Hutchinson on the short side, giving New York a 3-1 advantage. Zibanejad became the first Rangers player to record a short-handed and power-play goal in the same period since Brandon Dubinsky in April 2009. Pionk and Chris Kreider assisted on the play.
“He is a complete player,” Quinn said of Zibanejad. “I knew he was a good player before he got this job, I didn’t know he was this good. This is a guy that does a little bit of everything. He’s got skill, he’s tough, he can skate. We are lucky to have him.”
Zuccarello recorded his second of the game and season at 1:27 of the third period. Zibanejad picked up his second assist and fourth point of the game.
James Reimer replaced Hutchinson after the Rangers’ fourth goal early in the third period. Panthers starting goaltender Roberto Luongo has been sidelined since opening night with a knee injury.
Hoffman made it 4-2 with wraparound of his own at 10:37 of the third.
“We came out and played pretty well and got the first goal. Usually that’s enough to spark the team and inspire all of us to play at a higher level,” Panthers alternate captain Aaron Ekblad said. “Once we get that lead, we aren’t playing aggressive enough. It’s a combination of different things, but we’ve got to try to do that and move on.”
Hayes added an empty-netter in the final minute after Jesper Fast negated an icing to set up the goal.
The Panthers will finish off their road trip with games against the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils before heading to Helsinki, Finland, to take on the Winnipeg Jets for two games as part of the NHL Global series.
NOTES: Rangers defenseman Frederik Claesson will be out the next two to three weeks with an upper-body injury. ... Marc Staal skated in his 770th career game as a Ranger and is two games away from tying Adam Graves for 10th place on the team’s all-time games played list. ... Defenseman Tony DeAngelo was a healthy scratch for the seventh time in New York’s first nine games. ... Keith Yandle skated in his 722nd consecutive NHL game and has the longest active iron-man streak in the league. Yandle currently trails Jay Bouwmeester by 15 games for the sixth-longest streak.
Rangers: Visit the Blackhawks on Thursday.
Panthers: Visit the Islanders on Wednesday.
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